Saint Kosmas the Aitolos as a Model for our Lives
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
We know the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, as well as the confusion and misunderstanding that prevailed due to arrogance and haughtiness. The opposite of this incident happened in the New Testament, namely the day of Pentecost. There with the partitioning of tongues of fire on each of the disciples there disappeared confusion, fear and any dissent and there was exemplary unity and agreement. The sacred hymnographer, juxtaposing the two incidents, tells us: "When the Most High came down and confounded the tongues He divided the nations. When He dispensed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the Most Holy Spirit" (Kontakion of Pentecost). In other words, when the Tower of Babel was being constructed, God brought confusion in the languages and divided people into nations, and now with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit He calls all to unity. Arrogance divides and separates people, while humility attracts the Holy Spirit, and unites all people and nations into a brotherhood. Unity without divine Grace will always remain a dream unfulfilled.
Father Kosmas experienced, like all the saints, his own personal Pentecost, which is why he was a unified and integrated man and therefore able to minister and heal people and lead them into unity, to the true "unity of faith and communion of the Holy Spirit." When uncreated divine Grace enters the heart, then it burns with love for others. Hieromonk Kosmas learned one single language, that of love, and he wanted others to also come to know it, to be able to understand each other and not tear away from each other and kill one another with slander, injustice and lies. True love, as a fruit of communion with God, offers people inner fulfillment and thus becomes a means of attraction and source of unity. Conversely the passions, such as envy, arrogance and so forth create problems and anyone who possesses them becomes a source of abnormalities. They disrupt unity, tearing the seamless tunic of Christ, creating factions and a climate of polarization. No matter how many languages one speaks, if one does not know the language of love, according to the Apostle Paul, they are as a "clanging symbol", just making noise. The bright and holy figure of Saint Kosmas the Aitolos distributed peace and created a climate of unity.
We will highlight three points that characterize this modest but also explosive and majestic personality, proving the truth of what we mentioned above.
First, he had an ecclesiastical spirit. He did not despise those above him, but respected them and sought their opinion and blessing. His missionary career began after he received the blessings of his great Elders in Mount Athos, then he received the blessing and approval of the Patriarch of Constantinople, as well as the Bishops of the places he passed through. He did not work as an individual, nor divide, instead he paved the way for proper communication.
Second, he knew very well, as a true theologian, which means he was a God-seer, that the diversity of languages is a transient phenomenon based on the passions. The passions prevent mutual understanding. Many times people can communicate with people who are foreigners with a different language and culture, while others who seemingly speak the same language are not able to. It is obvious that what prevents the communication are the passions, which create a different way of thinking. For example, how can two people communicate, when one speaks the language of reason and the other only the language of interest? When the Saint asked the Greeks to stop speaking Arvanite and learn Greek, and if they did so then he would take upon himself all their sins, he did not do this because he was a racist or nationalist, but to give them the opportunity to study Holy Scripture and learn the language of love.
Third, wherever he passed through, he set up a Cross and a small pedestal. Then he would climb up to this and preach in the shadow of the Cross. And this was not just a habit without a deeper meaning. The Cross is the symbol of the victory of life against death, as well as of the mystery of love. The great missionary was crucified and resurrected and therefore did not hesitate to confront injustice, exploitation, ignorance and falsehood, even though he knew this path would lead to martyrdom. The Cross he raised up was a symbol of his personal Cross that he experienced which is why he was not afraid to die. Death did not frighten him, since he defeated it within the limits of his personal life. Only one who has died and risen can experience and preach true love which leads to communion with God, unity and mutual respect for others.
Our society, this modern Babel, requires great holy patristic figures like Father Kosmas, who experienced and expressed daily in his life the mystery of Pentecost and "spoke" the unique language of love.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ὁ Πατρο-Κοσμᾶς", August 1998. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.