Throughout Orthodox Christian history, theologians and laypeople have often recognized the Church as a “hospital” — a place of healing, rest, and communion. For example, St. John Chrysostom once said that, “indeed, the school of the Church is an admirable surgery — a surgery not for bodies, but for souls. For it is spiritual, and sets right, not fleshly wounds, but errors of the mind, and of these errors and wounds the medicine is the word.” (1)
In this hospital is the All-merciful Lord, the greatest Physician of our souls and bodies. However, the Church also recognizes many saints who are considered physicians — both physically and spiritually — through the grace of God. Two such saints are the Holy Martyrs, Wonderworkers, and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian of Rome, who we commemorate today on July 1st.
Brothers both in blood and conviction, Sts. Cosmas and Damian were born in Rome to parents who ensured their pious upbringing in the Christian life. During the reign of Emperor Carinus (282-285), Christianity suffered from persecution. Despite this, the brothers actively used the gift of healing to mend those in need — Christian or pagan — converting many to Christianity and inadvertently attracting the emperor’s unwanted attention.
They were arrested and challenged, yet remained constant and unmoving in their faith, saying “We have done evil to no one, we are not involved with the magic or sorcery of which you accuse us. We treat the infirm by the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we take no payment for rendering aid to the sick, because our Lord commanded His disciples, ‘Freely you have received, freely give’ (Mt. 10: 8).”
The emperor, still deaf to these words, continued to challenge the brothers and was suddenly struck blind by God. Upon seeing this, the soldiers and members of the court were struck with awe. They begged Carinus for the release of the brothers and in turn, Carinus begged to receive his sight again, promising to align himself with the Christian life afterwards.
After this event, Sts. Cosmas and Damian continued to heal those in sickness and affliction, influencing each patient spiritually, converting many to Christ, and asking for nothing in return. However, envy filled those who were not so generous and not long after, a former instructor of Sts. Cosmas and Damian murdered them in the mountains. Thus, they gained the crown of martyrdom. By trade, they were physicians of the body, but by God’s grace, they also became physicians of the soul.
Kontakion (Mode 2)
You received the grace of healing, and thus extend health to those in need, O glorious wonder-working Physicians. We pray that by your visitation you will also bring down the insolence of our enemies, and that you will cure the world by your miracles. (2)
Apolytikion (Mode pl. 4)
Holy Unmercenaries and Wonder-workers, visit our infirmities. Freely you received; freely give to us. (2)
1. Chrysostom , St. John . “The Church As a Spiritual Hospital According to Chyrsostom: St. John Chrysostom, “Homily Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren” .” . Mystagogy, n.d. Web. . .
2. Dedes , Fr. Seraphim. ” Services for Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014.” . AGES Digital Chant Stand, n.d. Web. . .
3. ” Holy Wonderworking Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian at Rome.” The Orthodox Church in America, n.d. Web.
Latest posts by Laramie Smith (see all)
- The Voices of Women In The Church: Kassiani the Hymnographer - September 7, 2014
- Liturgical Music as Medicine - September 3, 2014
- Holy Icons: Finding the Balance between Matter and Spirit - August 21, 2014