The holy, glorious and right-victorious New Hieromartyr and Equal-to-the-Apostles Cosmas of Aetolos was born in 1714 in Aetolia, Greece, to a father who was a weaver and a devout mother. He attended public schools, but was tutored by an archdeacon. He taught and then attended a school on Mt. Athos. He became a monk and later a priest at Philotheou Monastery there. After a time, he felt a calling to do missionary work in Greece, especially in the remote areas where there was a lack of churches and priests for the many unbaptized adults. As an aftermath of four centuries of Turkish oppression in Greece, Cosmas received the patriarchal blessing to travel wherever needed, for however long, with complete independence, to breathe life back into Christianity in Greece. Cosmas traveled in Greece, its islands, and Albania for 25 years, founding over 200 schools, as well as charities and rural churches. He traveled by foot, by donkey and by ship. When he came to a village he would ask the villagers to plant a large wooden cross in the village square. Then he would mount a bench next to the cross and preach to the villagers about the love of God and the Orthodox faith. The Muslims tried him on charges of conspiracy and sentenced him to hang in August 1779 in Albania. However, one account reports that he prayed and gave up his spirit before this could occur. St. Cosmas received from God the gift of prophecy, and was known to have prophesied of the telephone, airplanes, and aerial bombings. Patriarch Athenagoras glorified him in 1961.
Starting with perfect love, he says:
If you want to find perfect love, go sell all your belongings, give them to the poor, go where you find a master and become a slave. Can you do this and be perfect?
You say this is too heavy? Then do something else. Don’t sell yourself as a slave. Just sell your belongings and give them all to the poor. Can you do it? Or do you find this too heavy a task?
All right, you cannot give away all your belongings. Then give half, or a third, or a fifth. Is even this too heavy? Then give one tenth. Can you do that? Is it still too heavy?
How about this. Don’t sell yourself as slave. Don’t give a penny to the poor. Only do this. Don’t take your poor brother’s coat, don’t take his bread, don’t persecute him, don’t eat him alive. If you don’t want to do him any good, at least do him no harm. Just leave him alone. Is this also too heavy?
You say you want to be saved. But how? How can we be saved if everything we are called to do is too heavy? We descend and descend until there is no place further down. God is merciful, yes, but he also has an iron rod.
– St. Cosmas of Aetolia