Today is the anniversary of the death of Blessed Fr. Cosmas of Grigoriou Monastery on Mt. Athos. He lived and worked for Christ in Zaire until his tragic death in 1989. May we have his prayers and blessing!
An excerpt from the Introduction to Apostle to Zaire: The Life and Legacy of Blessed Fr. Cosmas of Grigoriou (Source)
In every generation there are those few exceptional souls who rise out of the conventionality of social life to become pathfinders to the catholicity and otherworldliness of Christianity. Heroic and uncompromising, they imitate Abraham and become exiles and martyrs for Christ, following Him with loving exactness and mountain-moving faith. They “hate their life in this world” in order to keep it—and that of their neighbor’s—for eternity; and to successive generations they become models to imitate, witnessing, long after their departure, to the honour the Father bestows on those who serve Him.
Such a one was blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou, enlightener of Zaire.
A Model of Mission Work in this Age of Antichrist
From as early as eighteen years of age [Fr. Cosmas] received from God the call to work in His mission field. Possessed of a dynamic personality that “was inspired by a burning love for Christ, he did not want to live a conventional Christian life nor to be limited to some usual ecclesiastical career and service. He longed to offer himself entirely to God and his fellow man.” He sought not honors, for “his chief concern was with the salvation of men and the upbuilding of Orthodoxy in Zaire.” The beloved Cosmas was, in the words of the former Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Florina, “the trailblazer of a beautiful journey for our race.” He made Christ’s departing directive to “teach all nations” his point of departure from a life of compromise and port of entry for Orthodoxy in the sub-Saharan and the hearts of countless souls. Unlike the missionaries of heterodox confessions, he laid stress on both the first and second part of the Great Commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” His success, or rather faithfulness, in carrying out the first half of the Great Commission, was a direct result of his faithfulness and resolute determination to observe the second half, that is, to be exact in teaching them “to observe all things” that Christ has commanded us.
It could not be otherwise, for the African is neither as the contemporary European, worn out by centuries of dizzying ideologies and spent on a myriad of humanistic philosophies, nor as the typical American, quick to compromise and moderate things in order to achieve outward success. His noble, humble soul still inclines toward the other world and his simple, intuitive mind still has a healthy disposition for the noetic realm. A few months before his departure from this life, Father Cosmas visited the monastery of his repentance and spoke to the pilgrims there of this African nobility and their desire for authentic, ascetic Orthodoxy. Bishop Athanasios Yievtich, a close disciple of the great contemporary Church Father, Archimandrite Justin Popovich, was present and relates what Fr. Cosmas had to say:
They are people with a sensitivity and awareness of the inner world. Europeans usually underestimate them, but they are very mistaken. The soul of the African inclines toward mysticism and for this reason Orthodoxy has something to say to them and something to offer, but only authentic Orthodoxy— monastic, hagiorite Orthodoxy. For among the brethren of Africa, witchcraft and magic holds great sway, a real demonocracy. In Africa, I saw how true the Gospel of Christ is! Everything that He said about the possession of men by the demons, I saw first hand. However, the Living and True God is more powerful than Satan and all his servants. Let it be understood, however, that true missionary-apostolic work cannot be carried out in Africa if one does not decide to leave his bones there.”
And so in teaching the native Africans the entire Gospel of Christ and revealing to them the undistorted Image of the God-man and His Church, it was only to be expected that his self-offering would likewise be complete and unqualified. In his “unique, genuine and very useful” study on mission work, entitled Thoughts about Missionary Work from Experience, he lays out the cornerstone principle for all who would follow his example:
The missionary’s beginning is significant, however it is not the sum of the matter . . . The outset might be blessed or might become blessed at the end. What’s important is that the giving be true and total, without holding back, with a disposition to self-sacrifice and self-denial, and with the aim of leaving our bones among the natives . . .”
Long before one leaves his bones on the mission field, however, he must have discarded his pride and vainglory first, if he wants the final offering to be fruitful. Thus, for Fr. Cosmas the true missionary, in order to attain the blessed end, must leave no room for jealousy or vainglory, but rather must understand all to be shared: “common the struggle, common the pain, and common the glory of the Church.” He must “offer an open heart, love and communicate with others, concern himself with his own problems without adding more, being attentive to what others are doing, without turning to the devil and causing division.” And carrying out his duty in humility, “the true missionary does not seek recognition for his work, neither from the natives nor from those abroad, for the testimony of his sound conscience and the witness of his spiritual father and co-workers is sufficient for him.”
About the Book
Apostle to Zaire is the story of the life and legacy of a man who was chosen by God from the young age of 18 to be the Enlightener of Zaire. In the first part of the book, we encounter the life, last days, letters and the writings of Fr. Cosmas–an Athonite ascetic, a modern model of mission, an apostle to the heart of Africa. In part two, we read accounts of miracles and the battle with magic, interventions of the Saints and conversions of sinners, missionary adventures and baptismal testimonies. This a unique biography of a contemporary missionary and a practical introduction to Orthodox mission work.
To read excerpts from the book featuring Fr. Cosmas’ letters, see here.