Cosmas, Damian

Cosmas and Damian (3rd century) were brothers who ended up being martyred for their faith in Christ. As physicians, they combined their devout faith and talents to heal both the souls and bodies of their fellow man, and they are a testimony to the calling of all physicians.

They serve as examples of godly calling to the ministry of healing, in that they did all their work without regard to being paid for their services – a true testimony and poignant reminder to modern physicians, who face the temptation we all have – that of being much too temporally minded in life.

Because they accepted no pay for their services, they were called anargyroi, or “the silverless”.

The following is from Lydia Bauman’s forthcoming book, “The Great Themes of Art: Medicine” which contains observations regarding Cosmas and Damian and the above oil on wood painting. It is entitled “Legendary transplantation of a leg by Saints Cosmas and Damian, assisted by angels.” The painting is a 16th century work by the Master of Stetten, and resides in the Landesmuseum Wurttemberg museum in Stuttgart, Germany…

“Their most famous and the most unlikely medical feat was to successfully, and painlessly, perform an organ transplant. They miraculously grafted a healthy leg of a dead Ethiopian to the stump of a diseased leg of a christian verger, Justinian. We see the black skinned limb being joined up with the white body of the white patient. This is an impossibility under any circumstances, let alone when performed under such primitive conditions and with nothing more effective than a bandage to bind the two parts of the leg together. The effect is both gruesome and strangely comical.”

“But the two good doctors have something doctors today do not have: divine intervention. Three angels are in attendance, like nurses in an operation theatre, handing over instruments, straightening the covers, clearing up. The artistʼs deadpan illustration of the miraculous event, makes us feel that this may have really happened. It is a tribute to the power of human faith in God and his benevolence in the face of human helplessness.”

Their martyrdom occurred during the persecution of Diocletian in 285 a.d. After being brought before the prefect Lysias they were beheaded.

Meditating on the gospel lesson appointed for today, which examines how Our Lord healed the multitudes at the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, we are reminded that He is the source of all physical and spiritual healing.

Following Christ, may we, like Saints Cosmas and Damian, be instruments through which His healing power can both save and heal the souls of those who are downtrodden and destitute.

“Our soul is escaped even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler. V. The snare is broken, and we are delivered: our help standeth in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth” – Ps. 124. (From the day’s gradual, page F 11, The People’s Anglican Missal).

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