Kosmas the Melodist

His life and his work

He was mostly called Jerusalemian, and also Agiopolites, and stayed for a long time in the renowed monastery of St Savvas together with his step-brother St John of Damascus. He became bishop of Maiouma of Gaza (750). As he was orphan, he was adopted by Sergius, the father of the enlightener of Damascus, John of Damascus, and he studied with him both under the supervision of the wise Kosmas the Foreigner, or Beggar and Incomparable, who descended from Italy.

The divine Kosmas composed many canons both iambic and troparia. Among his festive canons, special position has that to the Nativity of Christ «Χριστὸς γεννᾶται δοξάσατε», taken from the Festive Speech of St Gregory the Theologian, whom he used word by word, and melodised it into tone I. He used tone II for the second feast of the Lord, Theophany (6th January, when we celebrate the Baptism of Christ); and tone III in the third feast of the Lord, the Meeting (2nd February). He use tone IV for Palm Sunday, and skipping past tone pl I because it is festive, he used tones II and pl. II for the Holy Week as lamentful tones. On Pestecost, he used the grave tone, and on the Elevation of the Cross, pl. IV.

He also wrote canons for the Transfiguration of the Lord «Χοροὶ Ἰσραὴλ ἀνίκμοις ποσί», the Dormition of the Mother of God «Πεποικιλμένη τῇ θείᾳ δόξῃ» any many others, which are explained in detail by Gregory of Corinth, Theodore the Pour-forerunner, and Nikodemos of the Holy Mount. He also composed the more shorter poems of the Holy Week, which are refering to each day in separately, andy which are named after the number of odes they contain: Diodion, Triodion, or Tetraodion. This was imitated by the Studite monks Theodore and Joseph who composed Triodia from the other days of the year and especially during Great Lent.