Orthodox Monasticism

Saints Cosmas and Damian

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

PSALM 140[141]

Lord, I have cried out to You, hear me, Hear me, O Lord. Lord, I have cried out to You, hear me, Attend to the voice of my supplication. Whenever I cry to out to You, hear me, O Lord. Let my prayer rise up as incense before You; Hear me in my prayer, O Lord...


O gladsome Light, Of the holy glory of the immortal Father-Heavenly, Holy and Blessed--O Jesus Christ, Having seen the evening light, We praise God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is proper at all times to praise You with joyful voices, O Son of God, Giver of life. For this the world does glorify You.


On November 1st (Kalo and Evlogimeno Mena [may we have a good and blessed new month) Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Foreathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian; Saint David of Evia; Righteous holy Martrys James, James the Deacon, and Dionysios of Mount Athos; Saints John the bishop and James the Presbyter of Persia.

HOLY UNMERCENARIES COSMAS AND DAMIAN. Unmercenaries and wonderworkers, they were brothers in the flesh and in spirit, born somewhere in Asia of a pagan father and a Christian mother. After their father's death, their mother Theodota devoted all the time and energy to the bringing-up of her sons as true Christians. God helped her, and her sons grew as two choice fruits and as two holy lamps. They were skilled in medicine and ministered to the sick without payment (unmercenaries), and so fulfilled Christ's command: "Freely have you received, freely give" (St. Matthew 10:8). They were so strict in their unpaid ministry to men that Saint Cosmas became greatly enraged with his brother Damianos when he took three eggs from a woman, Palladia, and gave orders that, after his death, he should not be buried with his brother. In fact, holy Damianos had not taken those eggs as a reward or payment for healing Palladia's sickness, but because she has sworn by the Most Holy Trinity that he should have them. However, after their death in Fereman, they were buried together in obedience to a revelation from God. These two holy brothers were great wonderworkers both during their lifetime and after their death. A farm laborer, on lying down to sleep at one time, was attacked by a snake, which entwined itself around his mouth and stomach. This poor man would have breathed his last in the greatest torment had he not at the last moment invoked the help of Saints Cosmas and Damianos. Thus the Lord glorified forever by miracles those who glorified Him here on earth by their faith, purity and mercy.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Unmercenaries, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 12:27-31
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:1, 5-8


"What, then, by brethren, follows from the Holy Spirit's taking up His abode in us? It follows that we are no longer our own. When the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in our bodies, then He becomes Lord over us, and not we over ourselves. Then, my brethren, we are the property of God in the Holy Spirit". [Saint Nikolai of Zhicha]

By His Eminence, Hierotheos Vlachos

How the Orthodox Tradition changed?

Your question is critical and your observation very accurate. I am delighted with your conclusion, which you expressed in great pain. Indeed, we have lost our Orthodox tradition, which is specified as the therapeutic treatment or the stages of spiritual perfection: purification, illumination and divinization. Church is a hospital. And just as in hospitals there is a special treatment for every condition the same happens in the Church. Just as in the hospital there are outpatient offices, intensive care wards and wards for convalescence period, so also in the Church. The parish communities operated as outpatient offices, whereas Orthodox Monasteries are the intensive care units. Passing through the stage of purification, one completes his convalescence period and, finally, he attains cure when his nous is illumined. His cure continues until he reaches the vision-theoria of God and the constant theoria of God. We could say that this tradition often exists and operates as a substratum and background in many people.

However, Western tradition has greatly affected our life. The Enlightenment of the West substituted moral life for purification and an intellectual catechism for the illumination of the nous, which is achieved through noetic prayer. Thus in Sunday Schools a rather Western Apologetics and, in general a Western catechism is usually taught. We experience a wide secularization nowadays. And I firmly believe that secularization is not abstract. It is not simply expelling God to heaven, as many people teach today, but it is the loss of the therapeutic treatment of the Church; the loss of the three stages of spiritual life: of purification, of the illumination of the nous and of man's divinization. Even when we speak of these, we do it in superficial way. We just think that we must become "good people". And when divinization is spoke of, we probably don't consider it as a communion and union with Christ but in an abstract way. Yet no one can attain to communion with Christ outside the ascetic life, which is purification, illumination and divinization. As we previously mentioned, the vision of God in Paradise for the purified, and Hell for the impure. Just as Saint Gregory the Theologian says: "O Holy Trinity venerable and longsuffering!...O Trinity Who will become known to all, to the ones by illumination, to the others by damnation". Christ is the fall and resurrection of many.

How can it be explained that the ascetic method is traced as a background in our people's life? asked Father Philip.

We must confess that this is due to the great power of our tradition, which is alive, and to the great beneficial effect of Orthodox Monasticism. We know that Monasticism developed after the cessation of the persecutions. It would seem reasonable if it developed during the persecutions, when Christians would try to find refuge on the mountains. Yet, on the contrary, when Christianity gained its freedom, secularization appeared. Then those who wanted to life the genuine life according to the Gospel fled from society. Thus, according to the teachings of the Saints of our Church, we can maintain that monasticism as a result of the secularization of ecclesiastical life and the loss of the Church's therapeutic treatment For this reason the first monks used to ask the laymen who would visit them whether the Church still existed in the world. They did not mean whether there were temples, or shepherds of the Church, but whether the therapeutic treatment, and especially faith based on theoria (vision) was preserved.

It is observed nowadays as well that many people approach sanctified monks, who practice the therapeutic treatment of the Church, to ask them on matters of spiritual life. The people of our days feel that they must be healed of their passions. They live in the suffocating atmosphere of passions and want to be delivered from them. They are aware that a formal church attendance is not enough. The appropriate method is also necessary. that is why monks are always the shepherds of the people in an indirect way, although they are not directly such. They do not substitute for the work of the shepherds, but they preserve and use the therapeutic treatment which has been lost in contemporary ecclesiastical life. Or, even if it is not lost, at least, it is replaced by a moral code of life. However, man's soul, which yearns for real communion with God, does not find rest in anthropocentric systems and humanistic methods of therapy. It seeks something genuine and authentic. Monks therefore are the theologians of the Church in the sense which we developed in this conversation. They know God and guide man unerringly to reach God. Furthermore they distinguish the uncreated from the created and thus they can guide in an Orthodox manner.

[to be continued]

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George