The Feast of the Holy Unmercenaries
Sts. Cosmas and Damian
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On November 1st of each year, our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the holy Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian, two extraordinary brothers who were renowned physicians and martyrs of the early Church. Born in Asia Minor, these beloved saints of our Church earned a distinctive reputation for offering their services of healing to those in need. In their deeds, Saints Cosmas and Damian were living examples of the commandment of Christ to His disciples: Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay (Matthew 10:8). It is for this reason that our Church bestows upon Saints Cosmas and Damian the honorific distinction of “Holy Unmercenaries” (Agioi Anargyroi), for these two great men took these words of Christ to their heart.
Yet, what precisely does the Church mean by this term “unmercenary”? In answering this question, it is helpful to recall that a mercenary is one who specifically contracts with another to serve on a “work-for-hire” basis. The loyalty of a mercenary normally is measured by the amount of money which he is promised in exchange for his performance. For the mercenary, the monetary value of his work is of significance.
By contrast, an “unmercenary” renders service for a lifetime. Payment is not the basis of his work, but rather the unselfish nature of his labor and his deep love for the beneficial work he is doing. The example of Saints Cosmas and Damian is a superb, indeed holy example of the mindset and actions of an “unmercenary.” This is because the labor of these beloved Saints was expressed in the task of restoring the health of others in the name of Jesus Christ, and the level of love they had for this labor was equal to the level of love they held for Christ, which was without limit.
Today, the legacy of Saints Cosmas and Damian lives on, and their example of giving challenges us to consider concepts of labor, love, and faithfulness in radical ways as we engage in philanthropic actions and service to others. In tribute to the legacy of philanthropy that these great Saints of Asia Minor have bequeathed to us, our National Ladies Philoptochos Society leads us annually on this day in raising funds to support the hospitals, nursing homes, and philanthropic agencies of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, and in turn the venerable Greek Orthodox community of Constantinople. Therefore, you are kindly asked to pass a special tray on Sunday, November 2, in your parish to support the National Ladies Philoptochos Ecumenical Patriarchate Fund, a ministry which is a tangible expression of our love. In supporting this important Fund, you will help to bring both material and spiritual comfort to the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ who know Constantinople as their home.
It is my fervent prayer on this day and always, through the intercessions of Saints Cosmas and Damian, and by their sterling example of labor and love, that the virtue of authentic Christian philanthropy may be indelibly inscribed upon our hearts through our charitable acts for all who are in need. May God’s love, mercy, and healing presence be with you all on this day and always.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America