Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Mt. 28:19–20). Such was the final commandment our Savior gave to His apostles. Every true Christian is a missionary that testifies that the Kingdom of God has come into the world and spreads the good news about it to other people.
Hieromonk Kosmas Grigoriatis (Ioannis Aslanidis in the world; 1942-1989) is one of the most well-known Orthodox missionaries of our time, through whom the light of Christ has illumined the souls of many of our African brothers and sisters in Christ. This year we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of his reposal.
We would like to offer our readers a few words of reminiscence in honor of Fr. Kosmas, which were said by the abbot of the Grigoriat monastery of Mt. Athos—geronda George (Kapsanis) of blessed memory.
After sunset on Friday, January 7, 1989, the zealous preacher of the Gospel to our African brothers, hieromonk Kosmas, faded away from this life in order to arise in the ever-shining light of the Kingdom of God. On his way from Lubumbashi to Kolwezi, he suddenly finished his earthly journey, and stepped upon the path leading to eternity, to the everlasting City, to the longed-for Homeland.
The first knowledge he received as a child was from his pious parents Dimitri and Despina Aslanidis. Still an infant, he began to absorb his parents' piety, for his family was one that lived by and kept the Greek Orthodox faith as it had been handed down in the blessed region of Pontus.
As a child, Ioannis attended Sunday schools, and then himself became a teacher and collaborator of metropolitan Augoustinos of Florina, a tireless hierarch of our Church. Ioannis also received a spiritual education at a seminary in Rizarios.
In December of 1977 he came to our monastery, having been recommended to do so by a few revered Mt. Athos elders, in order to live here for some time and be tonsured; and then, with the blessing, guidance and help of the monastery, to return to his ministry. After almost a year of being tested and having shown great asceticism and love towards the monastic way of life, Ioannis was tonsured into the Great Schema and received the name Kosmas, so that St. Kosmas of Aetolia would become his guardian and guide in life. Fr. Kosmas was then ordained a deacon and then a priest by the God-loving bishop Chrysostom of Rodostol, and returned to Zaire. Many new feats awaited him there: the building of churches, catechization, sermons, baptisms (he baptized over 15,000 Africans), the organization of a large farm (60 acres) and a cattle-breeding complex that would provide food for the priests, poor Orthodox and non-Orthodox Africans alike, for lepers and prisoners. One is not able to count the number of his innumerable works and exploits in this enormous apostolic, pastoral and social ministry!
During his last stay on Mt. Athos in June 1988, Fr. Kosmas appeared very tired. He came to the Holy Mountain once every 2 or 3 years in order to regain strength, confess, pray and receive instruction for further missionary work.
In 1980, Fr. Kosmas was elevated to the rank of confessor, and later archimandrite, by the metropolitan of Central Africa Timothy.
Fr. Kosmas did not pursue any kind of titles. He was concerned about the salvation of the people and the strengthening of Orthodoxy in Zaire. He taught the African people the Jesus prayer, regarding it as an effective weapon against the “demonocracy” of the African sorcerers. Fr. Kosmas believed that one of the most important tasks was the initiation of newly baptized Africans into the liturgical life. He often celebrated services and night vigils, taught byzantine chant and the Mt. Athos typicons as much as he could manage to translate them. Having a good knowledge of Swahili and Afrikaans made the task much easier for him. And to the glory of God we would also like to mention that millions in cash went through the hands of Fr. Kosmas; however, he died as a true monk: poor and without possessions.
During his last visit to Mt. Athos, Fr. Kosmas wrote a research paper in which he drew conclusions based on his experience as a missionary. This is an original work, which is authoritative and very useful for the further advancement of the Orthodox ministry. During an assembly of our monastery’s brethren, Fr. Kosmas said that no one will be able to start up a real ministry in Africa unless they are willing to have their own bones buried there.
There was a large gathering of people at his funeral in Zaire, which was served by metropolitan Timothy of Central Africa, who is also a restless worker in the field of evangelism in Africa. The burial was also attended by representatives of the government of Zaire, who highly appreciated the enormous sociological efforts of the deceased father Kosmas. With a sense of deep pain, His Grace Timothy gave over to the earth the remains of his devoted collaborator.
From: Charismas and charismatics. An anthology of the manifestation of the gifts of grace (3 volumes). V. 3. (Oropos: The Holy Monastery of the Paraclete, 2009).