Tag Archives: St. Herman of Alaska

An everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

I can’t let Theophany pass without posting something. The poetry and the glory are truly over-the-top, on this feast that is second only to Pascha in conveying the fullness of our salvation, the marvelous works of the Lord.Theophany 16 fr j read

At Royal Hours on Monday, and today on the feast itself, I kept taking out my little notebook to scribble down a few phrases that I could use to do research at home, with the idea that I could find prayers and hymns in their entirety on the Internet, for later meditation and writing. But I find that not everything is online.

And most of my scribblings turned out to be almost identical to the phrases that had caught my attention last year. That’s okay. It was good for me to read last year’s post, and probably some of you didn’t see it then or would enjoy it again as well, so here is the link: “We are watered by mystical streams.”

The very earth of our neighborhoodTheophany 16 girls end of processions has recently been well watered by rains that we acknowledge to be gifts of God, so it seemed this week that all of nature was participating in our celebration of the baptism of Christ.

Water itself is a basic element of the cosmos and is fundamental in the the Creation story: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” When Jesus came to him for baptism, John was baptizing people in the Jordan River, the same river their ancestors had crossed on their entrance to the Promised Land, and in the homily today we heard that he was calling the people to come back to that event, to their beginnings, to their first love.Theophany 16 cross dip crp2

The Spirit of God also appeared at Christ’s baptism to affirm that He is the bearer of God’s Spirit. It’s all about the renewal of the Spirit in our lives, as at Theophany we are reminded of our own baptism and pray again that the Holy Spirit would revive and refresh us, as the showers of life-giving rain water the plants and make them fruitful.

We celebrated Divine Liturgy in our “big church” and then processed singing to the small church — the rain kindly letting up so that we didn’t have to carry umbrellas along with our banners — where water was blessed and sprinkled all around. While some of us filled our bottles with holy water others processed all over the property and ended with blessing the bells. Theophany 16 bless bells & choir

The many celebrations I’ve been part of at church since Christmas have watered my soul immeasurably. Theophany (and the splashing of water on my head!) is like the final drenching of this season, so that I feel wet through with the love of God and His Church, with the joy spoken of in Isaiah 51 (and mentioned in my title here). I want to go on day by day and find His mercies that are new every morning. If I follow the counsel of my priest I’m sure I will. He said that we shouldn’t bother with New Year’s resolutions, except perhaps to imitate St. Herman of Alaska who encouraged a constant repentance, saying, “From this day, from this moment, let us love God above all.”

These two fought bravely.

Two important people in my life died on this day. I didn’t know either of them personally, but both have contributed hugely to the presence of true and living Orthodox faith in America, that Church in which I’ve found the fullness of Him Who fills all in all. Every year that we come to this date finds me more thankful.

Saint Herman of Alaska, whose feast we commemorate today, arrived in Alaska in 1794 and died there in 1837. On the occasion of his canonization in 1969 Bishop Dimitri spoke:

The Church on earth lives in a loving fellowship with the saints who have already run their race, who have fought the good fight, and have received their crowns (2 Timothy 4:7) (James 1:12). This is what the Apostle means when he says that we are compassed about or surrounded by the witness-martyrs or saints. We are assured both of their presence and their interest in us. In fact, they are concerned about the whole world and its salvation, for “there is joy in heaven over the repentance of one sinner” (Luke 15:7).

Father Schmemann was born in 1921 into a family of Russian emigres, and came to the United States in 1951 to join the faculty of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, where two of my own parish priests sat under his teaching. He reposed in the Lord in 1983. Not only has my life been enriched broadly by his contributions to the whole of Orthodoxy in America, but by my reading directly what he wrote, especially For the Life of the World, and his journals.

I’m so thankful, too, that I can commune with that cloud of witnesses in church this morning. So as to not be late, I’ll just finish by copying here what I posted last year on this happy day. And it is another cold one!

It seems fitting that we commemorate St. Herman of Alaska on this date, when winter is making itself felt. I’ve written before here and here about Father Herman, how he spurned the cold, befriended the animals, and interceded between the Aleuts and the powerful people who would exploit them.

His is a good example in the Advent season, of how to keep our hearts and activities focused on the Kingdom of God in the face of distractions. And if we have a church service to attend where we can share in the Life of Christ together with Saint Herman and all the Cloud of Witnesses, we are very blessed!

I just learned (and am adding this paragraph to my original post) that today is also the anniversary of the repose of Father Alexander Schmemann, another shining star in our church family. This note about both men leads to further inspiration from and about Fr. Alexander, who rests firmly in the tradition of Saint Herman. I’m ever so thankful to have this coinciding of the celebration of two of my favorites.

A Beloved American Saint

It seems fitting that we commemorate St. Herman of Alaska on this date, when winter is making itself felt. I’ve written before here and here about Father Herman, how he spurned the cold, befriended the animals, and interceded between the Aleuts and the powerful people who would exploit them.

His is a good example in the Advent season, of how to keep our hearts and activities focused on the Kingdom of God in the face of distractions. And if we have a church service to attend where we can share in the Life of Christ together with Saint Herman and all the Cloud of Witnesses, we are very blessed!

I just learned (and am adding this paragraph to my original post) that today is also the anniversary of the repose of Father Alexander Schmemann, another shining star in our church family. This note about both men leads to further inspiration from and about Fr. Alexander, who rests firmly in the tradition of Saint Herman. I’m ever so thankful to have this coinciding of the celebration of two of my favorites.