Herman of Alaska

Herman of Alaska

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Saint Herman of Alaska (born 1756 or 1760 in Serpukhov
Serpukhov
Serpukhov is a city in Moscow Oblast, Russia, which is situated at the confluence of the Oka and the Nara Rivers. It is located south from Moscow on the Moscow—Simferopol highway. The Moscow—Tula railway passes through the town. Population: -History:...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 – died December 13 or November 15, 1837 on Spruce Island
Spruce Island (Alaska)
Spruce Island is an island in the Kodiak Archipelago of the Gulf of Alaska in the state of Alaska, USA. It lies just off the northeast corner of Kodiak Island, across the Narrow Strait...

, Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

) was one of the first Eastern Orthodox missionaries to the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

, and is considered by Orthodox Christians to be the patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

.

Biography


Saint Herman was born in the town of Serpukhov
Serpukhov
Serpukhov is a city in Moscow Oblast, Russia, which is situated at the confluence of the Oka and the Nara Rivers. It is located south from Moscow on the Moscow—Simferopol highway. The Moscow—Tula railway passes through the town. Population: -History:...

 in the Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 Diocese around 1756. Herman is his name in monasticism
Monasticism
Monasticism is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work...

; his birth name is unknown. At 16, he entered the Russian Orthodox monastic life at the Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near St. Petersburg.

There, while still a novice
Novice
A novice is a person or creature who is new to a field or activity. The term is most commonly applied in religion and sports.-Buddhism:In many Buddhist orders, a man or woman who intends to take ordination must first become a novice, adopting part of the monastic code indicated in the vinaya and...

, he developed a severe throat infection or abscess
Abscess
An abscess is a collection of pus that has accumulated in a cavity formed by the tissue in which the pus resides due to an infectious process or other foreign materials...

. After fervent prayer before an icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

 of the Theotokos
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

, he collapsed into a deep sleep. During this sleep, he saw a vision in which he was greeted by the Virgin Mary
Mary (mother of Jesus)
Mary , commonly referred to as "Saint Mary", "Mother Mary", the "Virgin Mary", the "Blessed Virgin Mary", or "Mary, Mother of God", was a Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee...

 and healed. Upon waking the next day, there was no trace of the past infirmity. Approximately five years later he transferred from Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage to Valaam Monastery
Valaam Monastery
The Valaam Monastery, or Valamo Monastery is a stauropegic Orthodox monastery in Russian Karelia, located on Valaam, the largest island in Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe.-History:...

. Eventually he was tonsure
Tonsure
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members...

d a monk, though he was never ordained to the priesthood. While at Valaam
Valaam
Valaam, also known historically by the Finnish name Valamo, is an archipelago in the northern portion of Lake Ladoga, lying within the Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation. The total area of its more than 50 islands is 36 km². The largest island is also called Valaam. It is best known as...

, he was under the spiritual guidance of Abbot Nazarius who had played a significant role in the revitalization of spiritual life in Russia. During this time, the head of the Golikov-Shelikov Company, Gregory Shelikov, visited Valaam and made a request for several monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s to begin a mission into the Alaskan territory. Herman was selected, along with seven other monks.

St. Herman and the other monks arrived on Kodiak Island
Kodiak Island
Kodiak Island is a large island on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, separated from the Alaska mainland by the Shelikof Strait. The largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago, Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States and the 80th largest island in the world, with an...

 on September 24, 1794, aboard a ship named The Three Saints, a name which became that of Three Saints Bay, Alaska
Three Saints Bay, Alaska
Three Saints Bay is a -long inlet on the southeast side of Kodiak Island in southern Alaska, North of Sitkalidak Strait. It is southwest of Kodiak....

. The monks converted the native Aleuts, and as time progressed they found themselves protecting the natives from exploitation and abuse. Because of this moral stance the monks themselves were abused, arrested and physically threatened. In time, enduring hardship, inclement weather, illness and more, Herman stood as the only remainder from the original band of missionaries, the others either being martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

ed for their faith, dying of natural causes or returning to Russia.

St. Herman felt it his duty to protect the Aleuts from exploitation. He defended them against the often cruel treatment of those who controlled the colony. His concern for their needs have been documented, expressed in letters sent to the former administrator of the colony, Simeon Ivanovich Yanovsky. Herman also would intercede before the governors on behalf of the oppressed. He helped those in need in whatever way he found possible.

Between the years of 1808 and 1818, St. Herman lived on Spruce Island
Spruce Island (Alaska)
Spruce Island is an island in the Kodiak Archipelago of the Gulf of Alaska in the state of Alaska, USA. It lies just off the northeast corner of Kodiak Island, across the Narrow Strait...

. Spruce Island is almost completely covered by forest and is separated by a strait about a mile and a quarter wide from Kodiak Island. Selecting this island for the location of his hermitage
Hermitage (religious retreat)
Although today's meaning is usually a place where a hermit lives in seclusion from the world, hermitage was more commonly used to mean a settlement where a person or a group of people lived religiously, in seclusion.-Western Christian Tradition:...

 he called the land there "New Valaam" after the monastery from which he had left to come to America. He dug a cave in the ground and lived out his first full summer there. It was in this cave that he was later buried. To endure the harsh winters he constructed a cell in which he lived for more than forty years.

A small chapel was built as well, along with a school and guest house. The local people would visit him often. Food was produced from an experimental garden he planted for himself and the orphans of the land. He devoted his life to prayer and to performing those services he could do as a simple monk who had not been ordained to the priesthood.

His love for the people of Alaska was sincere and he found happiness in being around the children. An epidemic
Epidemic
In epidemiology, an epidemic , occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience...

 plagued Alaskans when an American ship made land at Kodiak. Herman remained with the ill and dying, offering them constant comfort and ceaseless prayer. It is said that his love was so genuine that he could see into the hearts of his spiritual children and help them.

The natives regarded him as their intercessor before God. When there was a tsunami
Tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

 on the Island, St. Herman took an icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

 of the Theotokos
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

, placed it on the beach and assured the people that the water would not rise beyond the place where the icon was, and it did not. When there was a great fire on the island, it is said that he dug a trench and stayed the flames. Prior to his death he foretold that there would be no priest to bury him and that he would be forgotten for 30 years. He died on November 15, 1837, but was not buried until December 13 because a priest could not come to serve the funeral, and was forgotten until the first investigation of his life in 1867 by Bishop Peter of Alaska. This investigation was followed by publications of his life
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 in 1894, 1900, and 1952. In 1952 an Akathist Hymn (devotional song, prayer or chant) was composed in his honor.

Sainthood


On March 11, 1969, the Great Synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America
Orthodox Church in America
The Orthodox Church in America is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in North America. Its primate is Metropolitan Jonah , who was elected on November 12, 2008, and was formally installed on December 28, 2008...

 (OCA) solemnly proclaimed the Act of the Universal Church Canonization
Canonization
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

 of the Staretz Herman to Sainthood in the Orthodox Church in America
: "Taking into consideration the long and undisputed witness of the grace of God, appearing through the servant of God, the Staretz Herman of Alaska." Saint Herman was the first saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 from America to be canonized by the Orthodox Church. The glorification
Canonization
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

 of Father Herman was performed on August 9, 1970, at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak is one of 7 communities and the main city on Kodiak Island, Kodiak Island Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. All commercial transportation between the entire island and the outside world goes through this city either via ferryboat or airline...

 by the OCA with parallel services at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady, Joy of all who Sorrow
Joy of all who Sorrow
In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christianity, Joy of all who Sorrow is a title given to the Theotokos . The iconography is specifically Russian, without Byzantine precedent....

 in San Francisco by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia , also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, or ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church....

 (ROCOR). His relics were transferred from his grave underneath the church of Saints Sergius
Sergius of Valaam
Saint Sergius of Valaam was a Greek monk and wonderworker credited with bringing Orthodox Christianity to Karelian and Finnish people. Conflicting church traditions place him possibly as early as the 10th century or as late as the 14th....

 and Herman
Herman of Valaam
Herman of Valaam - a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church. Herman of Valaam together with Sergius of Valaam are considered to be the founders of the Valaam Monastery...

 of Valaam
Valaam
Valaam, also known historically by the Finnish name Valamo, is an archipelago in the northern portion of Lake Ladoga, lying within the Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation. The total area of its more than 50 islands is 36 km². The largest island is also called Valaam. It is best known as...

 Chapel on Spruce Island to the Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak.

There are several feast days throughout the year on which Saint Herman of Alaska is commemorated. Since there are two different calendars currently in use among various Orthodox churches, two dates are listed: the first date is the date on the traditional Julian Calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

, the second date, after the slash, is the same day on the modern Gregorian Calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

:
  • July 27/August 9—Glorification: This is the anniversary of the joint-glorification (canonization
    Canonization
    Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

    ) of Herman of Alaska as a saint in 1970.
  • November 15/28—Repose: This is the anniversary of the actual death of Saint Herman.
  • December 13/25—Repose: Due to an error in record keeping, this was originally thought to be the day of Saint Herman's death, and because of the long-established tradition of celebrating his memory on this day, it has remained a feast day. It is more likely that this is the day he was buried. For those Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian Calendar, this day falls on December 25 of the Gregorian Calendar, and thus provides a spiritual alternative to what some believe to be the increasingly secularized celebration of Christmas
    Christmas
    Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

    .
  • Second Sunday after Pentecost:, as one of the saints commemorated on the Synaxis of the Saints of North America—this is a moveable feast
    Moveable feast
    In Christianity, a moveable feast or movable feast is a holy day – a feast day or a fast day – whose date is not fixed to a particular day of the calendar year but moves in response to the date of Easter, the date of which varies according to a complex formula...

     of the ecclesiastical year, and the date of its observance will change from year to year.


The major portion of his relics are preserved at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak is one of 7 communities and the main city on Kodiak Island, Kodiak Island Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. All commercial transportation between the entire island and the outside world goes through this city either via ferryboat or airline...

, while his burial site at the Sts. Sergius
Sergius of Valaam
Saint Sergius of Valaam was a Greek monk and wonderworker credited with bringing Orthodox Christianity to Karelian and Finnish people. Conflicting church traditions place him possibly as early as the 10th century or as late as the 14th....

 and Herman
Herman of Valaam
Herman of Valaam - a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church. Herman of Valaam together with Sergius of Valaam are considered to be the founders of the Valaam Monastery...

 Chapel, Spruce Island, Alaska is an important pilgrim
Pilgrim
A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journeying to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system...

age site, where the devout will often take soil from his grave and water from the spring
Spring (hydrosphere)
A spring—also known as a rising or resurgence—is a component of the hydrosphere. Specifically, it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground...

 named in his honour. A portion of his relics are enshrined at the St. Ignatius
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology...

 Chapel at the Antiochan Village in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, the headquarters of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is the sole jurisdiction of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada with exclusive jurisdiction over the Antiochian Orthodox faithful in those countries, though these faithful were originally cared for by the...

, where he is regarded as one of their patron saints.

In 1963, with the blessing of St. John Maximovitch
John of Shanghai and San Francisco
Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco also John the Wonderworker was a noted Eastern Orthodox ascetic and hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia who was active in the mid-20th century...

, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, a community of Orthodox booksellers and publishers called the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood was formed to publish Orthodox missionary information in English. One of the founders was Father Seraphim Rose
Seraphim Rose
Seraphim Rose, born Eugene Dennis Rose , was an American hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia who co-founded the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, California. He also translated Orthodox Christian texts and authored several polemical works...

. The Brotherhood did much to advance the cause of St. Herman's glorification as a saint. Saint Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary
Saint Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary
Saint Herman’s Orthodox Theological Seminary is an Orthodox Christian seminary located in Kodiak, Alaska, with a campus in Anchorage. Established as a pastoral school in 1972, the seminary now provides a number of educational programs to prepare students for work in the Orthodox Church, as readers,...

 in Kodiak, Alaska is named in his honor, as are numerous parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

es throughout the world.

On Tuesday, August 4, 1970, the 91st
91st United States Congress
The Ninety-first United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from January 3, 1969 to January 3, 1971, during the first two years...

 Congress of the United States acknowledged the Glorification of St Herman of Alaska with a speech in the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, and his biography was formally entered into the Congressional Record, Vol. 116, No. 133.

In 1993, Patriarch Alexis II visited Kodiak to venerate the relics of Saint Herman. He left as a gift an ornate lampada (oil lamp) which burns constantly over the reliquary
Reliquary
A reliquary is a container for relics. These may be the physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures...

. Pilgrims from all over the world are anointed
Anointing
To anoint is to pour or smear with perfumed oil, milk, water, melted butter or other substances, a process employed ritually by many religions. People and things are anointed to symbolize the introduction of a sacramental or divine influence, a holy emanation, spirit, power or God...

 with holy oil
Holy oil
Holy oil may refer to:* Holy anointing oil, a perfume used to anoint the vessels of the Jewish Tabernacle* Holy Oil , a consecrated oil used in the administration of certain sacraments and ecclesiastical functions...

 from this lampada.

Saint Herman is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA)
Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America)
The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Those in the Anglo-Catholic tradition may...

 on August 9.

Hymns


Troparion
Troparion
A troparion in Byzantine music and in the religious music of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas. The word probably derives from a diminutive of the Greek tropos...

 (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
Kontakion
Kontakion is a form of hymn performed in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The word derives from the Greek word kontax , meaning pole, specifically the pole around which a scroll is wound. The term describes the way in which the words on a scroll unfurl as it is read...

 (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!

See also

  • Orthodox Church in America Diocese of Alaska
    Orthodox Church in America Diocese of Alaska
    The Orthodox Church in America Diocese of Alaska is a diocese of the Orthodox Church in America . Its territory includes parishes, monasteries, and missions located in Alaska. The diocesan chancery is located in Anchorage. The Diocese was founded when Alaska was part of Russia and is one of the...

  • Russian Colonization of the Americas
    Russian colonization of the Americas
    The Russian colonization of the Americas covers the period, from 1732 to 1867, when the Tsarist Imperial Russian Empire laid claim to northern Pacific Coast territories in the Americas...

  • Hermit
    Hermit
    A hermit is a person who lives, to some degree, in seclusion from society.In Christianity, the term was originally applied to a Christian who lives the eremitic life out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament .In the...


External links