|This weekly bulletin insert complements the curriculum published by the Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America. This and many other Christian Education resources are available at http://dce.oca.org.|
On November 1 the Church celebrates the memory of a pair of unmercenary physicians, Saints Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor.
There are two other pairs of unmercenary saints named Cosmas and Damian, one from Rome and celebrated on July 1, and the other from Arabia and celebrated on October 17. The word "unmercenary" means the same thing for all of them—that they refused payment for their healing work.
The two brothers celebrated on November 1 were raised by their mother Theodota, a Christian whose pagan husband died while the boys were still young. She taught them to be reverent toward God, and encouraged them to study hard to become skilled physicians. She, too, is a saint of the Church and is remembered on this day.
As Cosmas and Damian grew into manhood, they became well-known for their care not only of people but of animals. In their view, all living creatures, being part of God's creation, were worthy of loving care and medical help when it was needed. The brothers knew that their abilities were God's gift, so they determined never to request any payment for what they did.
They applied this principle not only to friends and people they knew well, but to any stranger who needed their assistance. The courteous attention they showed to every person reflected their mother's Christian teaching, and brings to mind the words of Saint Paul that we read today: "Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer every one" (Colossians 4: 5-6). Paul was encouraging his readers to be effective in spreading the Gospel by being gracious in speech and behavior; Cosmas and Damian did so by representing Christ in their medical treatment, always accompanying it with prayer.
Having agreed to be "unmercenary" in their work, the two men were more strongly bonded even than many brothers are. But the bond was broken, in a sad and curious way, for a period of several years. A very sick woman, deeply grateful to the brothers for having cured her, offered Damian the small gift she could afford: three eggs. She insisted that he accept them "in the name of the Life-Creating Trinity." Damian felt that he could not refuse.
Cosmas was shocked by what seemed to be a breach of their agreement not to accept payment, and he declared, on his deathbed, that his brother must not be buried beside him as they had planned. When Damian died shortly after he did, a big problem arose: where should Damian be buried?
God intervened by giving the power of speech to an animal the two physicians had once treated. The animal assured everyone that Damian had accepted the gift only out of respect for the name of God, and therefore they should not hesitate to bury him next to Cosmas. Happy and relieved, the people did so, and the two brothers were united once again.