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Friday, December 25, 2015

Saint Herman of Alaska the Wonderworker



December 12th (OS) / 25th (NS)
Our Blessed Father Herman was one of a group of Orthodox missionaries sent from Valaam monastery near the Russian-Finnish border on Lake Ladoga. He was born into a family of merchants in the city of Serpukhov. He had a great zeal for Christ, pious from his youth, and entered the monastery at the age of 16. This was probably in 1772. First he entered the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage which was located near the Gulf of Finland on the Peterghof Road, about 10 miles form St. Petersburg. As a young monk, he once became deathly ill with an abscess on his throat. Alone in his cell and near death he fell down before an icon of the Mother of God and prayed with fervent tears for healing. He then took a wet towel and wiped the face of the icon of the Holy Theotokos, and with this towel he covered the swelling. In a dream he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary touching him on his throat, healing him. When he awoke in the morning, he was fully healed.
After six years at the Sergius Hermitage, he was transferred to Valaam Monastery, in the far north of Russia, where he came to love its unforgettable superior, Elder Nazarius. But he willingly left when chosen with nine other monks from Valaam to travel Alaska as missionaries to the Aleut Indians. They departed in the year 1793. It was the longest missionary journey in Christian History, taking a year to traverse over 7,900 miles, by land and sea, to arrive at Kodiak Island. As a result of their holy zeal, the light of Christ poured forth, and several thousand former pagans were baptized into the Christian Faith.
Eventually, Father Herman found himself the only surviving member of the original missionary team. He moved from Kodiak Island to nearby Spruce Island, a tiny, forested island which he called New Valaam. There he first lived in a cave and then built a cell in which he lived for many years until the end of his life. A wooden Chapel and a wooden schoolhouse/guest house were built near his cell. He lived there for more than forty years, following the example of many desert Fathers who showed the greatest concern for the welfare and needs of others, yet regarded themselves of little significance. He wore the simplest monastic clothing and used a bench for a bed, a wooden board for a blanket, and bricks for a pillow. He ate very little, and he wore 16 pounds of chains under his deer-skin smock, so that no one, until his death, knew about them. These chains are kept to this day, on his reliquary. Ferocious bears living on the island were tame and benign around Fr. Herman. He worked many miracles and led thousands to Christ, remaining a simple monk.

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Troparion, Tone 4
Blessed ascetic of the northern wilds/ and intercessor for the whole world;/ teacher of Orthodoxy, instructor of piety,/ adornment of Alaska and gladness of America,/ holy Father Herman, pray to Christ our God that He may save our souls.
Another Troparion, Tone 4
O Blessed Father Herman of Alaska/ North Star of Christ's Holy Church/ the light of thine holy life and great deeds/ guides those who follow the Orthodox way/ together we lift high the holy Cross/ thou didst plant firmly in America/ let all behold and glorify Jesus Christ/ singing His Holy Resurrection.
Another Troparion, Tone 7
O Joyful North Star of the Church of Christ/ guiding all men 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.
Kontakion, Tone 8
Monk of Valaam and beloved of the Mother of God,/ new zealot of the old desert-dwellers in thy labors;/ armed with prayer as thy sword and shield, thou wast terrible to demons and pagan darkness./ O St. Herman, we cry to thee: pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.