Saint Herman of Alaska

Saint Herman of Alaska
Saint Herman of Alaska

Today, December 13th is the Feastday of Saint Herman of Alaska the first Saint to be Glorified by the Orthodox Church of America.  He was Glorified by the Church in 1970 and continues to be remembered for what he was able to accomplish in bringing the Orthodox faith to North America.

Herman was a Russian monk from the Valaam Monastery and left Russia in 1793 to travel to what was then Russian Alaska to bring the Gospel to the native Aleuts and Eskimos in the Aleutian Islands.  His arrival marks the first arrival of Orthodoxy in North America.

One of the interesting parts of his life is he was never a priest but was able to minister to the congregation that God had given him in ways that a priest might not be able too.  Following in the footsteps of Ss. Cyril and Methodios rather and force the native population to learn Russian, Saint Herman and his fellow missionaries learned the native language and translated the Liturgy into that language for the benefit of the people.  Wow, we could learn something from that in America today!

The hymns of his feast truly tell his story:

Troparion Tone 7

Joyful North Star of the Church of Christ,
Guiding all people to the Heavenly Kingdom;
Teacher and apostle of the True Faith;
Intercessor and defender of the oppressed;
Adornment of the Orthodox Church in America:
Blessed Father Herman of Alaska,
Pray to our Lord Jesus Christ
For the salvation of our souls!

Troparion Tone 4

O blessed Father Herman of Alaska,
North star of Christ’s holy Church,
The light of your holy life and great deeds
Guides those who follow the Orthodox way.
Together we lift high the Holy Cross
You planted firmly in America.
Let all behold and glorify Jesus Christ,
Singing his holy Resurrection.

Kontakion Tone 3

The eternal light of Christ our Savior
guided you, blessed Father Herman,
on your evangelical journey to America
to proclaim the Gospel of peace.
Now you stand before the throne of glory;
intercede for your land and its people:
Peace for the world and salvation for our souls!

We need the intercession of Saint Herman today more than ever for our country!

I am blessed to have a Holy Relic of St. Herman on my altar here at Saint Michael in Southbridge.  Each Liturgy I celebrate I feel as though he is standing there with me, along with Saint Alexis Toth and Saint Raphael of Brooklyn whose relics I also have on my altar.

We Orthodox in America owe a great deal to Saint Herman, and those who came with him to bring Holy Orthodoxy to North America.

Also on this day we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the falling asleep in the Lord of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and a leading 20th century Orthodox Christian theologian.

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

Like Saint Herman, Fr. Alexander came to America as a missionary and a teacher.  He was born in Estonia and came to America in 1951 after teaching at the Orthodox Theological Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris.  Keep in mind that in 1951 there were maybe a handful of books printed in English about Orthodoxy and Orthodox Theology.  I recently heard an interview with Fr. Chap Hatfield from St. Vladimir Seminary in New York.  In the interview he spoke about the move of St. Vladimir from Manhattan to its present location and that the entire seminary library was contained in a bath tub!  That will give you some indication of the number of books in English.

Fr. Alexander, and others like him, is responsible for the publication of classics as well as new classics on the subjects of Orthodox life, theology, and spirituality.  Just as Saint Herman brought Orthodox to North America, Fr. Alexander continued that mission and made Orthodoxy much more accessible that it ever had been to on the North American soil.  And his mission did not end there.  Because his work, Orthodoxy has spread to other English speaking places around the world.

We pray to Saint Herman and to Fr. Alexander for all Orthodox Christians and that their work will continue in North America and be blessed.

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