Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saints Cosmas and Damian: gifts of the Spirit

Fra Giovanni Angelico da Fiesole (c 1395-1455)
The Crucifixion of Saints Cosmas and Damian and the stoning of the brothers
Oil on poplar wood
0.381 m.  : x 0.46 m
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen,  Munich,

Blessed Fra  Angelico (c 1440- 55)
The Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian
c 1440
Oil on poplar wood
0.370 m. x 460 m
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Initial "S" showing Saints Cosmas and Damian
Fragment of a liturgical manuscript
c. 1440 from Tuscany
inv. 6988 
Musée hist. et arch. Orléans

Saints Cosmas and Damian in the initial "P"
From a Roman Breviary
c. 1482
Ms. 0069 f. 558v 
BM   Clermont-Ferrand 

The stories of Cosmas and Damian are narrated in The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275 

What is martyrdom ?

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the question in a letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints 

"Martyrdom: a gift of the Spirit  
The third subject reflected upon at the Plenary Meeting concerns martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit and an attribute of the Church in every epoch (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 42). 
The Venerable Pontiff John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, noted that since the Church has once again become the Church of Martyrs, "as far as possible, their witness should not be lost" (n. 37).  
The martyrs of the past and those of our time gave and give life (effusio sanguinis) freely and consciously in a supreme act of love, witnessing to their faithfulness to Christ, to the Gospel and to the Church.  
If the motive that impels them to martyrdom remains unchanged, since Christ is their source and their model, then what has changed are the cultural contexts of martyrdom and the strategies "ex parte persecutoris" that more and more seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature.  
It is of course necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim.  
It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the "odium Fidei" [hatred of the faith] of the persecutor. If this element is lacking there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church.  
The concept of "martyrdom" as applied to the Saints and Blessed martyrs should be understood, in conformity with Benedict XIV's teaching, as "voluntaria mortis perpessio sive tolerantia propter Fidem Christi, vel alium virtutis actum in Deum relatum" (De Servorum Dei beatificatione et Beatorum canonizatione, Prato 1839-1841, Book III, chap. 11, 1). This is the constant teaching of the Church."