In August of 2020, the Orthodox world marked the 50th year golden jubilee of the glorification of St. Herman of Alaska. Our Venerable Father Herman landed on Kodiak Island, Alaska, together with a few Russian monks from Valaam on September 24, 1794, having travelled 7,300 miles in 293 days, beginning the long history of Orthodoxy in North America.
On August 9, 1970, St. Herman was glorified among the choir of venerable saints—the very same year in which the Orthodox Church in America received autocephaly and took her rightful place among the Local Churches of the world. The Russian Orthodox Church, as well as many other local churches have received their newest sister church with much love, a perfect example of this being the latest celebration in the OCA’s Moscow Representation Church.
On August 9, 2020, the fiftieth anniversary of the canonization of St. Herman of Alaska was gloriously celebrated at the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in-the-Fields—the OCA Metochion in Moscow.
With the blessing of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’, His Eminence, Archbishop Ambrose of Verea, Vicar of Sretensky Monastery and head of the seminary thereof, lead the Divine Liturgy. Concelebrating was His Grace, Bishop Antonije of Moravica, the representative of the Patriarch of Serbia to the Patriarch of Moscow and head of the Serbian Representation Church. Together with the hierarchs served as many of Moscow’s respected clergy as could fit into the cozy altar, where aforetime served St. Tikhon of Moscow himself.
Concelebrating with the archpastors were Protopresbyter Vladimir Divakov, the patriarchal secretary for Moscow; Archpriest Daniel Andrejuk, the representative of the Orthodox Church in America to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and the Rector of the Church of Great Martyr Catherine in-the-Fields; Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, the vice-chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR); Archimandrite Seraphim (Shemyatovsky), representative of the Church of the Czech Lands of Slovakia to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; Igumen Joseph (Kryukov), rector of the Valaam Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration representation in Moscow; Archpriest Christopher Hill; Priest Pavel Zuev; Hierodeacon Seraphim (Chernyshuk), and Deacons Vladislav Sokolov and Dimitry Asratian.
Ms. Sophia Buday, the second secretary of the USA in Russia was also present in the church, and diplomats from the American and Canadian embassies, including the ambassadors themselves, frequently visit the church on major holidays.
The beautiful liturgy was truly a Triumph of Orthodoxy across all the world, and there were many guests in the church from across Russia and North America. A video of the service from the official YouTube channel of Sretensky Monastery can be seen here:
After the liturgy, the rector of the OCA Representation Church, Archpriest Daniel Andrejuk delivered the congratulations of Metropolitan Tikhon of All America and Canada to the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful in Moscow. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon said in his letter:
As the Alaskan children loved Saint Herman for the care he showed to them, may all of us, his spiritual children throughout the world, always have him as our guide and protector in this life! […] Indeed, the one trait of our holy Father Herman which outshines all other traits is his humility. With humility, he lived a quiet life on a small island. With humility, he cared for those sick and poor around him. With humility, he said his daily prayers and did his daily tasks. With such great humility, in imitation of our Lord who humbled himself by being crucified in the flesh, our Holy Father Herman received the Kingdom of Heaven! May we too, in imitation of his humility, faithfully do the will of our Father God, each and every day, in whatever works that may lie ahead of us!
Father Daniel also expressed the gratitude of the OCA and the clergy and parishioners of St. Catherine’s to His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’, for the very special care and attention which His Holiness has always shown to the OCA Metochion. Recently, the altar of the church—where as noted, St. Tikhon of Moscow once served—was repainted, and the parish is constantly being beautified under the rectorship of Father Daniel. After his speech, he presented both hierarchs with special commemorative panagias,1 in honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Canonization of St. Herman.
In turn, His Eminence, Archbishop Ambrose thanked Father Daniel, and the walls of the bright baroque church reverberated with the singing of many years to Patriarch Kirill, Metropolitan Tikhon, and to the two autocephalic sister churches—the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church in America, and all their members.
The triumphal celebration was one of many magnificent events in prayerful life of St. Catherine’s Church. Father Daniel constantly serves to bring together Russian and North American Orthodox Christians in the unity of Christ, through special attention to the saints who unite us all, such as St. Herman of Alaska, St. Tikhon of Moscow, and St. John of Shanghai.
As an example of this, on October 11 and 12, 2019, for the first time in history, the feast of the uncovering of the relics of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco was celebrated with hierarchical services at St. Catherine's, and the belt of St. John was actually brought to the church—Fr. Daniel was instrumental in making that a reality.
By the providence of God, two very special guests were serving on August 9, for the anniversary— Archimandrite Seraphim (Shemyatovsky), the representative of the Church of the Czech Lands of Slovakia, and Igumen Joseph (Kryukov), the rector of the Valaam Monastery Metochion in Moscow. It is worthy to call this providential, as the two places which they represent are perhaps the two most seminal places for the founding of North American Orthodoxy.
In modern day Slovakia, there is the small, God-preserved city of Prešov, and from that very region in the Carpathian Mountains, which stretch from there to Transcarpathia in modern-day Ukraine, and the Beskid mountains of southern Poland, came the Carpatho-Rusyns who formed the backbone of North American Orthodoxy. St. Alexis Toth himself was from Prešov, and he can almost be called the apostolic father of North American Orthodoxy, as the OCA website explains:
“He was instrumental in the formation or return of seventeen parishes, planting a vineyard of Christ in America, and increasing its fruitful yield many times over. By 1909, the time of his blessed repose, many thousands of Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniates had returned to Orthodoxy. This was a major event in the history of the North American Mission, which would continue to shape the future of Orthodoxy in this country for many generations to come. Any future growth or success may truly be regarded as the result of Father Toth’s apostolic labors.”
St. Alexis is depicted in an icon in St. Catherine’s Church, together with St. Tikhon of Moscow, St. Herman, and all the North American saints—the relics of St. Alexis lie in St. Tikhon’s monastery in Pennsylvania.
As for Igumen Joseph, he is a representative of Valaam monastery, which of course is the very monastery from which St. Herman and his brothers began their mission, which planted the roots of the OCA! We’ve at last come full circle!
And so, hundreds of years, two world wars, and several revolutions later, the spiritual descendants of these same saints again find themselves reunited, after traveling across the whole world, celebrating the canonization of the one who started it all.
The Holy Orthodox Church is in many ways a circle of eternal commemorations, each previous link of holy fathers, clergy, and faithful uniting the new generations back to the apostles—to Christ Himself—and through Him, to eternity.
It is easy, in these latter days, when it feels like our holy elders are all leaving us and moving on to their eternal reward, to say as aforetime did the Prophet Baruch, Ubi sunt—“Where have they gone?”
But after all, the saints are never truly gone, and in Christ, nobody truly dies, but all are made one.
It was in this same oneness of spirit, uniting all Universal Orthodoxy, that the liturgy was celebrated on that bright sunny day at St. Catherine’s, with all the Saints of Russia and North America looking down on us from eternity. May they together all pray for us, to the pre-Eternal God! (Kontakion of North American Saints)