Uploaded on Mar 19, 2009 by seanrbledsoe
The story of Saint Herman of Alaska. 2007 Goldie Award Winner – Best Use of Video, 2008 Fairbanks Film Festival – Jury Prize.
Saint Herman of Alaska was born in 1756 or 1760 in Serpukhov in the Moscow Diocese of Russia. He took the name Herman when tonsured a monk in the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage, near the Gulf of Finland, about 10 miles from St. Petersburg. He then transferred to the Valaam Monastery on the islands of Lake Ladoga. He was allowed later to live in the wilderness, a hermit alone in prayer, returning to the monastery only for the services of holy days.
In 1793, Father Herman, with Father (later, St.) Juvenaly and others, were chosen to do missionary work in Alaska. By zeal and the grace of God, they brought to the Faith several thousands of Native Alaskans. However, as time went by, the missionary party was slowly cut down. Some drowned in a ship at sea. Father Juvenaly was martyred at the hands of fearful Alaskans. Eventually, only Father Herman alone, of the original party, remained.
Father Herman settled on Spruce Island, and named it, “New Valaam,” in honor of his beloved Valaam Monastery. He dug a cave out of the ground with nothing but his hands, and lived there until a cell could be built, in which he then lived until his death. He grew his own food, not only for himself but for all he cared for, digging the earth, planting, carrying heavy loads of seaweed to fertilize the earth. He was a great ascetic; he was always barefoot even in these lands of the far North, and wore only a deerskin smock, a podrasnik and a patched rassa (inner and outer cassock), and his klobuk (monastic hat). He slept very little, and only on a wooden bench with no cushion, used bricks for a pillow, and covered himself with no blankets, but only a board.
He advocated for and defended the Aleuts against sometimes oppressive authorities. He cared lovingly and sacrificially for all who came to him, counseling and teaching them, and tirelessly nursing the sick. He especially loved children, for whom he often baked biscuits and cookies.
He was a great and compelling teacher, not only to Aleuts but also to highly educated and “free-thinking” Russians and Europeans who happened to travel there, and this humble monk humbled these “great ones” by his knowledge and wisdom, converting many to the true Faith. Often Aleuts were so captivated that they stayed up with him all night, not leaving until dawn.
The elder was given great spiritual gifts by God. He often foreknew the future, telling people of events that would happen many years later, and which were shown to have come true. By his prayers, God averted forest fires from crossing a line Father Herman made, and stopped a flood from rising past the position where Father Herman had placed an icon of the Mother of God and prayed.
Father Herman reposed in the Lord in his sleep on the 25th day of December (December 12th on the ancient Calendar of the Church), in 1837. He continued to work miracles after his death, answering the prayers of the faithful in intercession for them before God.
Holy St. Herman, pray to God for us.
St. Herman is commemorated on December 12 on the calendar of the ancient Church (December 25 according to the New Style calendar).
Troparion in Tone IV:
O venerable Herman, ascetic of the northern wilderness and gracious advocate for all the world, teacher of the Orthodox Faith and good instructor of piety, adornment of Alaska and joy of all America: entreat Christ God, that He save our souls.
Kontakion in Tone VIII:
O beloved of the Mother of God, who received the tonsure at Valaam, new zealot of the struggles of the desert-dwellers of old: wielding prayer as a spear and shield, thou didst show thyself to be terrible to demons and pagan darkness. Wherefore, we cry out to the: O venerable Herman, entreat Christ God that our souls be saved!
For more reading about St. Herman:
St. Herman of Alaska, a monk of the ancient Valaam and Sarov monasteries in northern Russia, belonged to the 18th-century spirit of sanctity revived by the spiritual genius of St. Paisius Velichkovsky.
As a younger contemporary in contact with many of St. Paisius’ disciples, St. Herman was permeated so deeply with the “Paisian spirit” that he might be rightly considered one of the most outstanding bearers of this vital legacy. As a part of the original holy Orthodox mission, he carried this legacy to the American continent in 1794.
With hope St. Herman crossed the vastness of Siberia and the stormy Pacific ocean to endure the afflictions from benighted kinsmen determined to keep the region of Alaska a plunged in the darkness of slavery. He alone persevered in Apostolic work, having not simply theoretical knowledge of God and religion, but having been trained in the inner workings of the heart. He brought the Philokalia to America from Abbot Nazarius’ editorship and founded the first monastic and hermitic dwelling in the New World-calling it New Valaam, and New Jerusalem.
The Holy Orthodox Faith which St. Herman and the other missionary zealots from holy Russia brought to the American continent is one that cannot simply be taken for granted. It must be lived and kept ever fresh, and the only way to do this is to draw continually from the living sources of holy Orthodoxy.
Even in our frightful times, when the foundations of any kind of decent life are collapsing, a chosen few are finding their way back to the holy Orthodoxy which, in the dim mists of history, our All-Gracious God will help us, and preserve us,when we love our God, and behold His TRUTH, and at the same time confess that TRUTH!
Let me now humbly present to you who love Christ our true God, selections from the “Little Russian Philokalia”, Volume III: St. Herman. Keep in mind those who are seeking their path towards salvation this factor: Philokalia means “love of the good.” It was the name given to celebrated 18th-century collection of Greek Patristic texts on the Christian spiritual life, teaching the path to true sobriety and the fullness of union with God.
Treasury Of Saint Herman’s Spirituality
A first compilation of St. Herman’s teachings on spiritual life drawn from his letters and conversations.
I. THE WAY OF A CHRISTIAN
Without exalting myself to the rank of teacher, nonetheless, fulfilling my duty and obligation as an obedient servant for the benefit of my neighbor, I will speak my mind, founded on the commandments of Holy Scripture, to those who thirst and seek for their eternal heavenly homeland.
A true Christian is made by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Saviour Himself. He deigned to say: not the righteous have I come to call, but sinners to salvation; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents then over ninety righteous ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He deigned to say to the the Pharisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgements a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept an inflicted despair. Here one needs the shield of faith.
Sin, to one who loves God, is nothing other than an arrow from the enemy in battle. The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland. According to the word of the Apostles, our homeland is in heaven; and about the warrior he says: “our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of wickedness under heaven” (Ephesians 6:12).
The vain desires of this world separate us from our homeland; love of them and habit clothe our soul as if in a hideous garment. We, traveling on the journey of this life and calling on God to help us, ought to be divesting ourselves of this hideous garment and clothing ourselves in new desires, in a new love of the age to come, and thereby to receive knowledge of how near or how far we are from our heavenly homeland. But it is not possible to do this quickly; rather one must follow the example of sick people, who, wishing the desired (health), do not leave off seeking means to cure themselves. (From a letter of June 20, 1820)
The above text was from: “Little Russian Philokalia”, St. Herman of Alaska Monastery Press, Platina California., 1989., pp.47-48. Highly recommended for further spiritual reading. Available from St. Herman of Alaska Monastery Press, Platina, California 96076
Holy St. Herman, Pray unto God for us!
January 26, 2008 Length: 14:18
Matthew teaches us lessons from the life of St. Herman of Alaska, a life of simplicity, purity, and commitment.
- Vera Johnston: “Herman — Russian Missionary to America”
- Orthodox Wiki: Herman of Alaska
- Wikipedia: Herman of Alaska