August 24, 2018

Saint Kosmas Aitolos on the Island of Kefallonia

Kefallonia has been blessed in having received the words and the preaching of the Great Preacher of the Nation, St. Kosmas the Aitolos.

He was born in 1714 in Megalo Dendro of Aetoloakarnania where he owes his name "Aitolos".

From an early age he went to Mount Athos, the bastion of asceticism, where he was educated at the Athoniada Ecclesiastic Academy headed by Eugenios Voulgaris. He entered the monastic ranks as a monk at Philotheou Monastery.

At the age of 45, having received the blessing of Patriarch Sophronios, he embarked upon his missionary campaign throughout the enslaved Greek territories bringing the message of Christ and the Orthodoxy to those deprived of both.

His contribution to the Church, the Nation, Education, and social cohesion, is significant and of inestimable value.

He died a martyr's death on August 29th 1779 in Kolikontasi, a North Epirus village by the Apson River.

In recognition of his work, our Church ranked him as Equal to the Apostles and a Patriarchal Decree issued on April 20th 1961 numbered him into the Orthodox list of saints.

He came to Kefallonia in 1765 and visited almost every region. His presence on the island was so significant and catalytic that when he left for Zakynthos, he was accompanied by ten boats filled with devout Kefallonians. The nobles prevalent in Zakynthos at the time did not receive him well. This caused him to return to Kefallonia, the hospitable island that honored him.

He had a habit of raising the Holy Cross and the Church Flag and preaching in their shadow wherever he went. Many of his crosses are preserved to this day on the island and his words are still repeated from generation to generation through word of mouth. Through his preaching he consoled, inspired and taught the enslaved Christians.

Preserved to this day are the Saint Kosmas Fountains of Sissiotissa in Argostoli and in the village of Tzanata. The Cross of Saint Kosmas in Assos still stands as well as the olive tree under which he preached. Every year there is a celebration in his honor with a litany leading to this spot officiated by the Metropolitan of Kefallonia.

Among the preserved mementos of Saint Kosmas we find some of his written prophecies, such as, "The Red Hats will come and then the British for 54 years, after which it will become Greek." Red Hats is a term used for the French Army alluding to the color of the soldier's berets in the era of Napoleon. In fact, after the Venetians, the island was occupied by the French who were followed by the British. The British occupied the island for 54 years, just as he had predicted!

Passing outside a newly-built house in Assos, he said: "You build strong houses but you shall not live in them." Shortly after, the owners all died with the exception of a nun.

While in Assos, he predicted the great inventions of our time: "There will come a time when the entire world will be encircled by thread," referring to telephone wires. "There will come a time that people will speak from a far away place like they were in the next room, like from Constantinople to Russia." Obviously he referred to telephone lines that allow people from all over the world to communicate like they were in the next room.

One wonders at the gift God granted a simple man to foretell events so far into the future in such detail. This proves the saintliness and purity of the man who because of these characteristics became the bearer of the Holy Spirit.

Once in Palliki he met Gerasimos Kladas, a simple clergyman at the time and addressed him as Archbishop. Shortly after, Kladas became Archbishop of Kefallonia.

Saint Kosmas also worked miracles while on the island. Once there was a poor tailor in Kefallonia who was paralyzed for many years in his right hand. He asked Saint Kosmas for help and he in turn invited him to attend one of his sermons. The man listened to the words of Father Kosmas, altered his life accordingly, and God granted him health the next day. Another paralyzed and bedridden man, when he heard of this miracle, asked his fellow villagers to carry him in his bed to Father Kosmas. After listening to the preching of the Saint, a few days later he was completely healed.

Saint Kosmas' Cross is kept in a special crypt of the Evangelistria Church in Faraklata, while his Cross and dome is treasured in the village of Pessada. A small chapel has been erected in his honor at Agrilila Monastery on the initiative of the abbot, Father Chrysostomos Alexatos. The Chapel is adjacent to the cross-bearing rock where Saint Kosmas preached.

Two of his handwritten letters to the governor asking for permission to preach, are kept at the Ecclesiastic Museum which was built by Metropolitan Spyridon at Saint Andrew's Convent.

Kefallonia, the gem of the Ionian Sea, was treaded by many saints, and is full of the numerous treasures left behind from Saint Kosmas' blessed journeys throughout the island.