Today is the feast day of Saints Cosmas and Damian. Orate pro nobis.
Saints Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born in Arabia in the third century, of noble and virtuous parents. Saint Gregory of Tours wrote that they were twins. They studied the sciences in Syria, and became eminent for their skill in medicine. Being Christians and filled with the charity which characterizes our holy religion, they practiced their profession with great application and wonderful success, but never accepted any fee. They were loved and respected by the people for their good offices and their zeal for the Christian faith, which they took every opportunity to propagate.
Saints Cosmas and Damian
by Fr. Francis Xavier, 1876
Sts. Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born of rich Christian parents, at Aegae in Cilicia. Both studied medicine, in order to have an opportunity to gain the Pagans to Christ, and encourage the Christians to virtue as well as to constancy in their faith. God blessed their medical skill to such an extent, that they became celebrated through the whole country for the happy cures which they effected, and pagans, as well as Christians had recourse to them in all dangerous diseases. They asked no fee from their patients, but served them out of love to God. When they visited a patient, they inquired into his ailings, and then cured him by making the sign of the cross over him. They even restored sight to the blind, and made the lame walk. Many heathens, healed in this manner, were converted to the Christian faith, as they not only became convinced of the power of the holy cross, but were also taught by the holy brothers who He was who had died for us on the cross. Hence these two holy physicians were rightly esteemed and honored as apostles by the Christians.
The heathens, however, regarded them as the greatest enemies of their gods: and when the Governor Lysias, by the order of Dioclesian and Maximian, came to Aegas, to exterminate the Christians there, these two brothers were the first who were denounced as magicians and corrupters of the people. Lysias called them to account, but they said fearlessly: “We are no magicians, no corrupters of the people; but in faith, Christians, and physicians by profession. We are not actuated by selfish motives, by lust of gain, in the practice of our science, as we take remuneration from no one. The happy cures we make we owe not so much to our knowledge, as to the power of Jesus Christ, whom we worship as the true God.” It was enough for the governor to know that both professed Christianity. He ordered them to be bound, whipped, and then thrown into the sea. The first of these orders was immediately most cruelly executed, but with the second he did not succeed; for, an angel of the Lord loosened the fetters of the Martyrs and brought them back to the shore, healed of the wounds which they had received in the barbarous whipping. When Lysias was informed of this, he ordered them to be burned alive. They were cast into a burning furnace, but remained unharmed. The tyrant then had them bound to a cross and commanded stones and arrows to be thrown at them; but both stones and arrows rebounded from them without doing them the least injury, while they severely wounded the heathens who were standing around. A great many were converted by this miracle. Lysias alone remained unmoved; and as he knew no other tortures, he condemned the two Saints to die by the sword. (2)
Their three brothers, Anthimus, Leontius, and Euprepius died as martyrs with them. The execution took place 27 September, probably in the year 287. At a later date a number of fables grew up about them, connected in part with their relics. The remains of the martyrs were buried in the city of Cyrus in Syria; the Emperor Justinian I (527-565) sumptuously restored the city in their honour. Having been cured of a dangerous illness by the intercession of Cosmas and Damian, Justinian, in gratitude for their aid, rebuilt and adorned their church at Constantinople, and it became a celebrated place of pilgrimage. At Rome Pope Felix IV (526-530) erected a church in their honour, the mosaics of which are still among the most valuable art remains of the city. The Greek Church celebrates the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian on 1 July, 17 October, and 1 November, and venerates three pairs of saints of the same name and profession. Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons and are sometimes represented with medical emblems. They are invoked in the Canon of the Mass and in the Litany of the Saints.
Image: Saints Cosmas and Damian, artist: Jean Bourdichon, circa 1503-1508 (4)
Research by REGINA Staff