St Herman of Alaska

The Glorification of St Herman of Alaska in the Russian Church

Epis­tle of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York, First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad on the 50th Anniver­sary of the Glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Ven­er­a­ble Her­man, Won­der­work­er of Alaska

Right rev­erend broth­er-arch­pas­tors, rev­erend fathers,
beloved broth­ers and sis­ters in the Lord!

Pushkin’s chron­i­cler Pimen, pass­ing on his life’s work to his stu­dent, said:
”…To thee I hand my task. In hours exempt
From the soul’s exer­cise, do thou record,
Not sub­tly rea­son­ing, all things where­to
Thou shalt in life be wit­ness; war and peace,
The sway of kings, the holy mir­a­cles
Of saints, all prophe­cies and heav­en­ly signs; -
For me ‘tis time to rest and quench my lamp…”

“Here is that which is most dear to the Russ­ian peo­ple: the holy mir­a­cles of saints, prophe­cies, and heav­en­ly signs. And tru­ly, no cel­e­bra­tion in Rus­sia ever saw the com­ing togeth­er of such mul­ti­tudes in Rus­sia as the open­ing of new holy relics,” said Met­ro­pol­i­tan Antho­ny (Khrapovit­sky), who 100 years ago led the Russ­ian Church Abroad, in one of his sermons.

As we know, the stages of the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of a saint in Christ’s Church take place grad­u­al­ly. We, the arch­pas­tors, pas­tors, and flock, exam­ine our­selves against the dis­po­si­tions of our fore­bears in the Faith, and in this way the can­on­iza­tion of God’s saints matures and takes shape. The dis­cus­sions relat­ing to the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion by the Church of Ven­er­a­ble Her­man of Alas­ka first took place at the Coun­cil of Bish­ops in 1939, which was held in the cra­dle of the Russ­ian Church’s dias­po­ran wing — in Srem­s­ki Karlov­ci. When a report on this sub­ject by His Grace Alex­is, Bish­op of the Aleu­tians & Alas­ka, was being dis­cussed, the Holy Hier­ar­ch Seraphim (Sobolev) expressed his con­fi­dence that the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Elder Her­man, accom­plished in the Dias­po­ra, would undoubt­ed­ly be con­firmed by the Moth­er Church; the oth­er fathers at this Coun­cil, mean­while, led by Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy (Gri­bra­novsky), though express­ing their gen­er­al belief in the God-pleas­ing nature of the works and ascetic labors of Ven­er­a­ble Her­man, con­sid­ered it nec­es­sary to wait for a restora­tion of nor­mal­cy in the life of the per­se­cut­ed Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church. The Most Blessed Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy main­tained this posi­tion in oth­er instances, as well. When, for instance, the ques­tion of the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion by the Church of the Right­eous John of Kro­n­stadt was raised in 1953, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy expressed his reser­va­tions regard­ing the canon­i­cal basis for doing so, say­ing that “the sole basis on which we oper­ate is Direc­tive № 362 of His Holi­ness, Patri­arch Tikhon, which allows us to per­form the func­tions of ongo­ing Church life, but does not grant us the right to per­form such excep­tion­al acts as the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of saints.” Nev­er­the­less, in 1964, still dur­ing the life­time and with the con­sent of the retired Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy, the Coun­cil of Bish­ops, hav­ing unan­i­mous­ly elect­ed Met­ro­pol­i­tan Phi­laret (Voz­ne­sen­sky), glo­ri­fied the Right­eous John for the con­so­la­tion of the Peo­ple of God liv­ing in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances abroad, and for the strength­en­ing of the Moth­er Church, which was suf­fer­ing at the hands of god­less per­se­cu­tors. At the time, many con­sid­ered this bold step by the Russ­ian Church Abroad to be one of the spir­i­tu­al fruits of the entire Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church, which led to the end of the so-called “Khrushchev’s per­se­cu­tions.” Con­fi­dants of the depart­ed Patri­arch Pimen (Izvekov) report­ed that he secret­ly per­formed the ser­vice to the Pas­tor of Kro­n­stadt in his res­i­dence, accord­ing to the rite adopt­ed by the Russ­ian Church Abroad; Met­ro­pol­i­tan Nikodim (Rotov), the spir­i­tu­al pre­cep­tor of the cur­rent Patri­arch, His Holi­ness Kyrill, per­son­al­ly thanked our parish­ioners for this glo­ri­fi­ca­tion when they had a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty in those days to vis­it the City on the Neva.

At that same time in the West­ern Amer­i­can Dio­cese, the Holy Hier­ar­ch John (Max­i­movitch), the great­est of the mas­ter­minds behind the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Right­eous John, in which he was sup­port­ed by the renowned hier­ar­ch and “Ser­bian Chrysos­tom” Niko­laj (Velimirovic), always cel­e­brat­ed the feast day of Ven­er­a­ble Her­man. On the feast day of Ven­er­a­ble Sergius and Her­man of Valaam, and on Decem­ber 13/26 — the tra­di­tion­al date believed to be the day of Elder Herman’s repose, and lat­er, as deter­mined by the results of fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tions, the day of his bur­ial — Saint John would serve a panikhi­da after Divine Litur­gy, which would end with the singing of the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion for monas­tic saints. Tak­ing pious part in these divine ser­vices was Eugene Rose, the future Hieromonk Seraphim, who received monas­tic ton­sure on the feast of the Pro­tec­tion of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1970 at the hands of the gra­cious and lov­ing Arch­bish­op Antho­ny (Medvedev), the Holy Hier­ar­ch John’s suc­ces­sor. Arch­bish­op Antho­ny, like Saint John before him, who adhered to the monas­tic school of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Antho­ny (Khrapovit­sky), labored much in the prepa­ra­tions for the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion by the Church of the Elder Her­man, the Right­eous John, and his own pre­de­ces­sor in the See of San Fran­cis­co, as well as the Synax­is of New Mar­tyrs and Con­fes­sors of the 20th cen­tu­ry. In the case of the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Won­der­work­er of Alas­ka, great effort was also expend­ed by the above-men­tioned Hieromonk Seraphim, along with the abbot and brethren of Saint Her­man of Alas­ka Monastery, at that time a part of the West­ern Amer­i­can Dio­cese of the Russ­ian Church Abroad, who pub­lished arti­cles about the saint and a mul­ti­tude of tes­ti­monies regard­ing the mirac­u­lous help ren­dered by the Mis­sion­ary Elder — in Russ­ian in the Ortho­dox Her­ald (Православный благовестник) and in Eng­lish in the Ortho­dox Word. At the cel­e­bra­tions of the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Ven­er­a­ble Her­man in Joy of All Who Sor­row Dioce­san Cathe­dral in San Fran­cis­co in 1970 — orga­nized beau­ti­ful­ly and in good order by Arch­bish­op Antho­ny, in accor­dance with the rec­om­men­da­tions of His Grace, Bish­op Alex­is, from the above-men­tioned 1939 report — Met­ro­pol­i­tan Phi­laret pre­sent­ed Read­er Eugene Rose and his col­lab­o­ra­tors with bene­dic­to­ry cer­tifi­cates for their labors.

We know of an inci­dent that took place in 1842 with the Holy Equal-of-the-Apos­tles Inno­cent, future Met­ro­pol­i­tan of Moscow & Kolom­na, print­ed on the last page of a brochure pub­lished in pre-rev­o­lu­tion­ary Saint Peters­burg, enti­tled “The Life of the Valaam Monk Her­man: An Amer­i­can Mis­sion­ary.” Sail­ing at the time across the sea to Kodi­ak Island and find­ing him­self in dan­ger, the Holy Hier­ar­ch Inno­cent, look­ing toward Spruce Island (the bur­ial place of Elder Her­man), turned to him in his thoughts and said, “If thou, O Elder Her­man, wast pleas­ing to God, then let the wind change.” Very soon, the wind became favor­able, and safe­ly car­ried the arch­pas­tor to shore, after which, in thanks to Ven­er­a­ble Her­man for deliv­er­ing him, he served a panikhida.

Let us also pray to these giants of Ortho­doxy in Amer­i­ca, that the Lord might pre­serve the ship of our Church in this com­pli­cat­ed time, mak­ing us wor­thy of that for which our fore­bears labored and which they cre­at­ed! Amen.
Ask­ing your holy prayers, I remain in the love of the Lord,

Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca & New York
First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad

July 27/August 9, 2020
50th Anniver­sary of the Glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Ven­er­a­ble Her­man of Alaska

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