September 2, 2015

Saint Kosmas the Hermit and Confessor

St. Kosmas the Hermit (Feast Day - September 2)

No extant information is provided for us in the Greek synaxaria about Saint Kosmas the Hermit. The few details we have were compiled by three Latin biographers of a later period. The first source is Pedrus de Natalibus from the 14th century, the second is the Venetian monk Fortunatus Ulmus (16th-17th century) in his book Life of Saint Kosmas the Hermit, and the third is Father Cornelius who lived in the 18th century who referred to an ancient manuscript in the library of Saint George de Majoris.

According to these sources, Kosmas was born in Crete in the second half of the 6th century, in an unknown area. In his youth he received a good education, so that later he was able to deal with and oppose the heresy of the Monothelites.

Initially he lived in a monastery, but due to his vocal opposition to the Monothelite Bishops he was forced to leave and became a hermit, taking refuge in the wilderness. He entered a cave in southern Crete and became a great ascetic wrestler. Alone with God, he ascended spiritually, fighting against the demonic powers with supernatural fasting and ascetic feats. In quietude and seclusion, Kosmas daily communicated with God.

Barefoot and naked, covered only by his body hair, Kosmas the Hermit passed away on September 9, 658. Due to his isolation, Kosmas remained unburied in his cave for a time until he was discovered and henceforth celebrated by the faithful. Being difficult to reach his cave, his sacred relic was taken to a large church, probably in Gortynos.

Then a major drought hit the region. There was no rain and all the fruit trees and grain were destroyed by the hot sun. The people thus fled to God and prayed for rain. It was at this time that Saint Kosmas appeared to someone and said very sternly to remove all the expensive jewelry from his relic and return it to his cave. This frightened the people, who did as the Saint ordered. They returned his body to the cave and separated an area deep within. From that moment the heavens opened and the rain watered the dried up ground for days.

Four hundred years passed and Saint Kosmas was all but forgotten except for a few local hermits, who would go to the cave and venerate him. On April 20, 1058 however Venetian merchants violated the crypt and stole his relic, transporting it to Venice. They noticed that his relic was incorrupt, as if he had just reposed, and it gave off a beautiful fragrance. In Venice they placed the sacred relic in the Church of Saint George Maggiore, where it remains till today in the Chapel of Saint Benedict, quietly waiting for its return to Crete, God willing.

Saint Kosmas is particularly celebrated in Koudoumas Monastery in Crete on September 2nd, which is near the cave of Saint Kosmas known as Avvakospilio (named for the many Abbas that lived there; also known as Varvakospilio), and he is also listed among the regional saints celebrated in Venice on the same date.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Hermit equal to the Angels, you longed for divine spiritual asceticism, and proved to be an honorable vessel of abstinence, an adornment of the Venerable Ones in Crete, and a renowned boast for the Venetians. Venerable Father Kosmas, beseech Christ our God to grant us the great mercy.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Kosmas, prudently you fled from the temporary kingdom and behaved on earth as an Angel. Therefore through your divine relics you grant divine healing.

You shined, Father, in the arena of temperance, you were seen as a pure vessel of the Holy Spirit; most holy Father, we beseech you, release us from our stumblings.

View from the Cave of Saint Kosmas