On December 13th we remember the repose of St Herman of Alaska, a monk who was sent from Russia to America in 1794 as part of the original Russian Orthodox mission to Alaska.
Many stories of his more than four decades there can be found here, the following among them:
The Aleuts related that when Father Herman was still alive and lived on Spruce Island, the local inhabitants used to go to the Elder for some reason or other. And more than once it happened thus: They approached the chapel where he celebrated divine services, and they heard superb choral singing, a multitude of voices singing. They wondered where the people had come from. And all this time the singing was clearly audible, and such harmonious, sweet singing . . .
They opened the door into the little chapel, and there Father Herman stood alone reading, chanting half aloud, celebrating the Lord’s service. And of course he was alone and there was no one there with him. … And such a thing was noticed more than once. It was angels of God who sang praises to the Lord with him.
The biography of Father Herman records the following incident. The Elder was asked: “How do you live alone in the forest, Father Herman? Don’t you become bored?”
He replied: “No! I am not alone there! God is there, as God is everywhere. Holy Angels are there. How can one become bored with them? With whom is it better and more pleasant to converse, with men or with Angels? With Angels, of course!”
I am most familiar with this quote from Father Herman, which is included in the icon of him in our church and is worth meditating on the year round: “…let us make a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this very moment, we shall strive above all else to love God and to fulfill His Holy Will!”