The Power of St. Herman Was Christ Himself

A Homily by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonos Petras

Photo: valaam.ru Photo: valaam.ru     

On August 21, 1987, His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius, then the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, presented a monk of the Athonite monastery of Simonos Petras with a great spiritual treasure—the right tibia of St. Herman of Alaska. The gift was given in response to the request of the Greek faithful.

The monk had been in America to represent his abbot, the great twentieth-century elder Archimandrite Aimilianos, at the annual pilgrimage to Kodiak, Alaska in honor of St. Herman. The elder recalled hearing tales of St. Herman even in his youth, at a time when, before his canonization in 1970, hardly anyone knew of him outside of Alaska.

Then, on September 4, 1987, the relic of St. Herman was reverently greeted at the Monastery of the Holy Annunciation in Ormylia, Greece, which had been founded by Elder Aimilianos. St. Herman had been regularly celebrated at Simonos Petras since 1981, and the fathers had even composed a full service to him in the Byzantine style, which was served in the presence of the gifted relic at the Ormylia Monastery on December 10, 1987.

From there, Elder Aimilianos joyously took the precious tibia of St. Herman to other churches and monasteries for the veneration of the faithful, offering inspired homilies in honor of the great missionary to America.

The following homily was delivered on December 12, 1987, at the Monastery of the Dormition in Mikrocastro, in the Diocese of Siatista.

The text is taken from the book, The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos, translated by Hieromonk (now Archbishop) Alexander (Golitzin) and published by St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of St. Tikhon’s Monastery.

The book can be purchased at stmpress.com.

***

The Monastery of the Dormition in Mikrocastro. Photo: johnsanidopoulos.com The Monastery of the Dormition in Mikrocastro. Photo: johnsanidopoulos.com     

Today, my beloved, we have a special blessing. We have the opportunity to open our hearts, to kneel in worship and find the grace of God. Today we have with us the most precious relic of a newer saint, one who fell asleep and was glorified only one hundred and fifty years ago. This saint was a wonderful ascetic, a true monk. He was also a missionary and miracle worker. We have brought him to our country, here to Macedonia, from far away. Yet he is close to us. He blesses us and brings us joy. Today we shall be amazed at this saint. We shall converse with him, and he in turn will bless and sanctify us.

We have brought him, beloved, from faraway Alaska, from the most northern regions of America. There, as we know, the ice often covers both land and sea. There, in Alaska, where there are some hundred and fifty volcanic islands, they bear witness to the power, the memory, and the holiness of St. Herman who was laid to rest there like the dawn. You know that in those parts the long nights can last for six months and are illumined only a little by the northern lights. And the days of the rest of the year are most often dim and cloudy—like the day we saw today while traveling here in the fog. We could barely see in front of our car. This is what the other months are like in the daylight hours. Do you know how many sunny days the inhabitants there have in the whole year? While nearly all our days are sunny, there they have only twelve days when they see the sun. Well, it is just there, to those hard lands, that St. Herman chose to go.

We honor St. Spyridon every year and will always do so. Now, however, today, we will honor especially our new saint, Herman of Alaska, whose grace is also truly great. We have brought with us a very large portion of his relics. It is the only such large portion outside of Alaska and it was given exclusively to us. We shall venerate this relic which is flowing with grace and so shall be pleasing to God, shall ourselves be blessed because we have discerned in it the life of the saint. And, from this point on in the service, we shall sing first of all the troparion of St. Herman and afterwards that of St. Spyridon. But I don’t think that St. Spyridon will be upset or misunderstand. He will rejoice at the honor we show to his younger brother. Just as he concelebrates with the angels, so now will he sing and glorify God with St. Herman, who was also himself accustomed to seeing the angels of God ascending and descending, and of singing together with them. So then, both the angels and the saints, and in particular our two saints, are here with us and shall moisten our hearts with the dew of that grace that they have from God.

The history of the Alaskan mission

Photo: prousa.info Photo: prousa.info     

Alaska, as you know, was discovered [by Europeans] not so many years ago. We learn of it first around 1730. Before, it was quite unknown. Something wonderful happened not long after its discovery: Christianity was brought to the region, specifically the Orthodox faith. How had the same originally come to Rome? How did it come to so many places? The first Christians who came and were interested there, as in many places, were merchants. Here, too, Russian merchants came to America. It was they who took the first steps and on one of those hundred and fifty islands, on the one called Kodiak, they built an Orthodox church. They built a school, too, and then tried and succeeded in bringing missionaries as well. These merchants were hunters of the wild animals of land and sea. They were fur traders and consequently had a certain relationship with these territories where the fur trade was profitable. There they hunted bear for their wild pelts; they hunted the skins of ermines for kings to wear and for queens to adorn their robes. They hunted the fur seals and other animals, such as the sea otters that swim the sea’s breadth and whose fur is the most beautiful of all. It was these merchants who thus made a beginning. They accomplished something great! Missionary work was terribly difficult there. Many drowned in the sea before they even arrived. Imagine those winters and the temperatures dropping as low as 62 degrees below zero, and the ice representing a daily problem—as much to apostles as to other men!

The first church there was the church of the Three Hierarchs, which stands to the present day and which, indeed, was recently adorned with icons in the Byzantine style prepared here in nearby monasteries. They also built another church, dedicated to the Resurrection, in another harbor in order for mission work to progress. And very recently in 1959, a Greek church was erected as well. Where don’t the Greeks end up?!

A difficult time for the Church in Russia

Peter the Great. Portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier, after 1717. Photo: wikipedia.org Peter the Great. Portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier, after 1717. Photo: wikipedia.org In order for you to grasp the worthiness of these missionaries, and in particular of St. Herman, I would like first of all to tell you about what kind of an historical period he was living in from the time he was born right up to the point where he became a missionary. St. Herman was like a kind of blossom or fruit of grace that grew up from a root in dry and difficult ground. How was the ground dry? Because not long before him, there was a king, Peter the Great, who was a rationalist and had been influenced by Protestant, especially German Protestant, examples, and who had transferred this thinking, the spirit of Protestantism, to his empire and to the Church. This is significant. When emperors, when rulers do not feel secure on seeing that there is a Church that is one and eternal, whereas their government is always being tested, when rulers want to govern everything, then it is natural for them to try to spoil the Church’s integrity, the integrity of her bishops, her clergy, and generally the authority of her laws. What do such people usually do? They try to become “reformers,” even agents of “renewal.” They demand freedom of religion, that is, that there be no established religion. Why? Because at heart they want somehow hide beneath this blanket their persecution of the Church.

And later, after Peter, we find Catherine “the Great”—as she is called. She, too, had the same attitude, and she ruled even more strictly according to a rationalistic system. And so, there were still more changes, more reforms. The state tried to adjust the Church in order to make it more approachable and popular for the people. They changed the government of the Church and created a new “Synod”—the very same system that later our own kings, influenced as well by Germany, brought to us after we had won our independence from the Turks.

So, nothing was favorable for a saint. They closed most of the monasteries and they tried, as much as possible, to reduce the numbers of the few monks that remained. Secularization blew through the country like a kind of whirlwind. We might say that such times remind us of the Lord’s saying: Now is the judgement of this world. However, in as many places as this did happen (since it also occurred in France and in other countries—indeed, everywhere), all the ancient customs were put to the test. Yet, it is still true that the Church really suffers nothing at all. Her people are always focused on Christ and the saints. Now, the state went after monasticism in particular, and it does so every time it wants to diminish the Church. Why? Because monasticism is like a living river whose streams fill men’s souls with healing currents. It makes them aware of God, of Heaven, of the universe of the saints. Monasticism is that which always brings genuine renewal to the Church, brings the recovery of ancient and forgotten ways.

Our Church therefore fears neither the times nor their difficulties. She fears neither corruption nor even death, and her daily life is always and fervently missionary.

St. Herman’s early Life: the Missionary chooses Monasticism

St. Herman of Alaska St. Herman of Alaska Our saint was born and grew up in a difficult period. But his heart was in the grip of the Church’s spirit. His own spirit prized her as its support, Paradise was at work in him, and for that reason his mind was that of the Fathers, spiritual, and his spirit was completely that of the Church. And he knew that if he wanted to spread Orthodoxy, and if he wanted himself to become rich, that he would have to make himself small. If he wanted to become rich in the good things of God, then he himself would have to become poor. If he wanted to be first in the Kingdom of Heaven, he would be last here below. And thus, precisely for these reasons, he became a missionary and chose as his plan and method of missionary work not programs, not learned arguments, not worldly standards, but instead silence and the desert, silence and prayer. He had learned this from the Apostle Paul who, when Christ called him to go bring the message of the Gospel to the gentiles, disappeared for almost eleven years in the deserts and in seclusion in order there to absorb the Holy Spirit and so have something to give to people. His prayer was his mightiest weapon. Fellowship with God was its result.

Thus, because he had chosen the apostolic life—a thought that Christ Himself had placed in him—St. Herman sought for mission within his monastic robe. He preferred to demonstrate what our Church tells us, that monasticism is the best kind of missionary work, and thus that whenever the churches grow it is because they are rich in monasteries, and that when they have monasteries they grow, and the people sense that they walk no longer on the earth but are lifted to the heights between Heaven and earth. The ways of mission are revealed within monasticism.

So, St. Herman was moved to give himself to God. At what age? Sixteen years! He was a boy of sixteen when he became a monk at the monastery of St. Sergius in Russia. There he remained, in the monastery of his conversion, for five or six years, and then he left for another place where he could go more deeply into the wilderness. He went to a hermitage that was itself named for St. Sergius and which belonged—note this!—to a famous monastery that had been founded by two Athonites, one called Sergius and the other Herman. It is the same way elsewhere in the Orthodox world, in Russia, Romania, Serbia. Wherever you go you will see the ancient footprints of the Athonite way.

From infancy St. Herman bore his cross. As little children almost all of us start out the same way. But we forget ourselves on the way. We are dragged off course by chasing after vanities and silly opinions. We are pulled down by possessions and so lose the years of our life. He, though, did not do so, but instead threw himself into his retreat.

So he went to a new monastery, as I was saying, and there he submitted to an abbot who was himself a real saint. A saint will always bring forth holy children. He had this man as his guide and protector. My beloved, St. Herman lived among the dark forests and on feast days would go to the monastery. His assigned job was the same as the first Apostles of Christ: He was a fisherman.

Thus, deep in those dark woods and alone with Christ Alone, he spoke with Him and Heavenly heights were revealed to him. Spiritual sights were unveiled for him, and our Lord placed before him all the powers of Heaven concealed in the Church. It was thus that he knew at last what he had to have and to say to the world.

The humble cell on Spruce Island

Spruce Island. Photo: ryazpressa.ru Spruce Island. Photo: ryazpressa.ru     

Now let us go a little further on, to the time when the saint arrives in Alaska. He chose one of the smallest islands, named for the spruce trees of which it had very many. But the whole side of it where St. Herman chose to settle was barren of any people. And, because his former monastery, where his hermitage had been, was called Valaam—for that reason he called the hut that he constructed, and its adjoining chapel, New Valaam.

Though the area was deserted, people immediately came to him. As you know, wherever a monk goes people follow, and wherever there is a monastery, they come and flood the place. As soon as he went there, people came to settle. They were Aleuts, people who then knew nothing of Christ.

He built a little cell. He built a little church, and made as well a little house for orphan children. He was simple, invisible, silent. He didn’t shout. He didn’t make a big noise and cry: “Here I am!” Never, especially, did he allow people to accord him any honor. Later, when they asked and begged to make him a priest or even a bishop, that most holy man saw himself as unworthy and refused. He always wanted to remain an ascetic.

The Philokalia says something very beautiful somewhere, something to which St. Herman conformed: “It profits you to be without the rank of priesthood. It is profitable for you not to govern other men, to be simple, humble, to fast, and be continent. Then you will become eminent and will shine like the stars, and, if they still oblige you to take the priesthood, you should know that you will lose everything you have gained up to that point and will never succeed in anything spiritual again.”

Certainly, there are those others whom God has called to accept both priesthood and the office of bishop. For this reason, St. Athanasius the Great says: “Whether you become bishop, whether you become priest, if you fast you will feed the people with God’s word. If you stay thirsty, you will quench men’s thirst with Divine grace. If you are a man of prayer, you will unceasingly be crowning men’s heads with the wings of angels and of God’s grace.”

Therefore our saint chose invisibility and simplicity. He never blessed with his hand, but only with his cross. He never wanted to show himself off as someone important. He accomplished the mysteries of the Spirit in accordance with his own way of asceticism.

It is thus, in the midst of asceticism, in the midst of vigils and prayer and fasting, that the saint was truly established as a missionary. I mean by this that he was taught the Heavenly doctrines, was furnished with the weapons of the Holy Spirit, that he acquired the armor of all the saints whom he had taken into his heart. And it was thus that he became an equal of the Apostles, and that by similar means. As the Apostles were filled with God and so gave Him to men, so was St. Herman filled with God. Truly, his power was Christ Himself.

You might have heard today’s Gospel for the saint, the famous phrase that goes: Go therefore, teach all nations … And lo, I am with you always… (Mt. 28:19-50). Thus was Christ indeed with St. Herman. Both summer and winter he wore the same clothes. His shirt was deerskin. His bed was a board and his blanket itself another board. His pillow was composed of bricks. And what did he have in place of the leather belt that we monks wear? A chain that weighed over seventeen pounds and that hurt his flesh, that chafed him and that he endured. His food was the herbs that he found around his hut. His work was hard. He prayed on his knees and in the midst of ice. His prayer services followed one after the other. And what did he have besides this? He had compassion. His heart loved other hearts. His heart burned inside him and sensed the needs of others.

Photo: ryazpressa.ru Photo: ryazpressa.ru     

So, the needs of another person passed through him like an electric current. He understood it immediately and was eager to help. In him love for people was joined to the solitude of his humble cell. You see? His readiness to help others was in exact proportion to his strictness with himself. He did not rush to lay obligations on them. He gave whatever anyone coming to him asked of him. He gave them love like a parent gives a child. He served them in whatever way they asked. And, in particular, he loved those whom Christ loves: the children, especially the orphans. He read to them from the Scriptures; he taught them. They learned how to read and write from him, how to sing the services. They learned skills from him that they could use later to earn a living. When he discovered another warm and consecrated heart in a wonderful woman named Sophia, he made her a mother for the orphaned children. He became a wise fisherman for those children, with the help of that woman. I mean by fisherman that he guided them, both children and adults, not to some ordinary path but to the one that leads to Heaven. And on Sundays he gathered the Aleuts in the church and there joined preaching to his asceticism, preaching of the sort that leads people to the knowledge of God. Thus, there where there had been no Christianity whatever, everything was filled with the rush and evidence of the Holy Spirit. The Aleuts grew mighty in the faith because they saw a living Christian monasticism, a way of life that is true and vibrant. It was Christianity in action, a tradition that neither rises nor falls but is steadfast forever. Thus the monastery, his little hermitage, became the light of the world. Life’s problems did not confuse his people because he, the monk, had shown them the solution.

Saint Herman in the midst of trials

Later on, though, the poor man did suffer many difficulties. What were we saying earlier? Oh, we Christians! As the Holy Scriptures say, it is because of us that the name of God is so often dishonored and that men blaspheme Him.

Those merchants who earlier had begun the mission, as we were saying, fell deeply into the passion for gain and so became exploiters. What did they do? They forced the Christian Aleuts into slavery, worked them like dogs, and so barbarous did their life become that they preferred to die rather than be tyrannized by the “Orthodox Christians” who had come from far away. Mothers even killed their own children to keep them from falling into the hands of these “Christian” merchants. Look at what happens! It is always we Christians who create the Church’s problems. These men had a and monopoly of many things, for example of books, candles, wine, and incense, such that the missionaries had neither incense nor wine with which to celebrate the Liturgy, nor books to read for the services. The merchants had all these and exacted a steep price for them.

There even came a day when one of these people entered St. Herman’s cell to see if perhaps he had hidden away some furs or money, either for himself or to help the suffering Aleuts. The merchants knew how much he loved the new Christians, how he defended them, and so they told themselves that he had put away something for them. They did not understand that he was a father to his children. So, this one man finds his little cell—so very little!—and thinks to himself: “Where has he hidden it?” He takes an axe and starts to chop away at the wooden floor in case the saint has hidden some of furs underneath. At this St. Herman says to him: “Don’t use your axe, because someone else will hit you on the head with it and you’ll die.” And sure enough, a little afterwards someone else, even more of an exploiter than the other, hit the man on the head with the axe and he died. St. Herman, though, continued to dwell in the abode of peace. The believers, around him all found rest in his heart, and warmth and peace.

His life a continuous miracle

So, beloved, what did this man not do? Through all these troubles his life remained summery. He fed on, was satiated day and night with God. He knew that his monastic rason [outer cassock] was his greatest glory, and by virtue of his monastic life he arrived at those heights that we men usually think are superhuman and unattainable. It is thus that he became gifted with discernment, that he saw the future, that his eyes looked inside people’s hearts, that they saw through space and into eternity. And even when he grew blind, he still knew who was coming and would prophesy to that person. The miracles he did! I will not tell you all of them. All the saints have their miracles. How he placed the icon of the Mother or God on the sea shore and stopped the dreadful tidal waves that were going to sweep everything away; how he went and by his presence and prayer put a stop to forest fires raging in those endless woods.

    

For years and years his prayer continued on and grew and grew, and with it so did his purity, his contemplation of God, his Heavenly charisms. The very bears were like playthings at his hands. The wild beasts of the forest came to do him homage. Animals and birds provided him with company when he was alone. They represented the invisible angels. He knew miracles from the time that he was a boy of sixteen: In his seventeenth year he grew very ill, could not be cured. So what did he do? He fell down in worship to the Mother of God and said: “I will not get up again unless you make me well,” and the Mother of God touched his hand, saying: “Get up! I have cured you.” A young boy! From that moment on he began to have complete confidence in God and in His mother.

But do not think, beloved, that this isolation was an easy thing. Whenever any of us are lonely, we try to find someone else to keep us company. And he was a human being. He, too, had his needs. And whenever he would, on occasion, feel his solitude, he would say to himself: “I am not alone. God is here, and so are His angels.” Indeed, there has truly never—but never!—been an instant or place where any of us has been without God, or His angels, or His saints; and, in particular for us now, without Sts. Herman and Spyridon. We break up our solitude with other things. We abandon our real life for things that are fake. We put different lies and yearnings in its place, and crowd out our days with misunderstandings and labors that bedazzle us. But he, St. Herman, filled up his days in the way that is right; he filled them up with God.

One day, beloved—do you know what he saw one day while he was walking along the beach? He lifts up his eyes, and what does he see? He sees angels coming down from Heaven. They came down to the sea and celebrated the service of the blessing of water. The angels lifted up the cross, did the blessing, and then afterwards went back to Heaven. The saint took from that water that had been blessed and the sick became well the paralyzed and the crippled were made whole. All of which showed that the appearance of the angels and the blessing had been true.

Precious in the sight of the lord is the he death of his saints”

Photo: zakonbozhiy.ru Photo: zakonbozhiy.ru But let us go on beloved, to the saint’s old age. The elder and missionary had grown grey in his solitude, and in that companionship, which was the gift of his heart to others. Now he is ready for God to take him. The servant of God goes to his Heavenly Father. As a saint of ancient times once said that he was himself the wheat ready to enter into and be stored up in the granary, in the silos of Heaven, so there, too, did our saint have to enter, he who was living wheat.

The important days of our life are the following: the day of birth into the world, which reveals that God has called us to Heaven; the second is our Baptism, which shows that we have the right to go to Heaven; and the third great moment of our life is the day of our death, our falling asleep, because it is our death which places in the life of Heaven, in Paradise.

So, too, did there come to him that unique, that special and blessed hour that comes to every man, the hour of his death. Whom did he not invite to it! He called for Sophia, the mother of the children. He called for his orphan children. He called as well for a certain young man whom God had sent to him there, whose name was Gerasim. And all around him were the bears, the animals, the birds of the sky, and the invisible angels. Then the holy one says to Gerasim, “Light the candles.” He lights them. “Read to me from the Apostle, and afterwards I myself will read from the Gospel.” The young man begins to read from the Apostle. A little while passes; and a light fills the room. Gerasim loses his place. “Stop!” the saint tells him, “God has told me that He wants me to live another eight days. This is His will.” So everyone goes back again to his or her daily life. And, eight days later, he calls them all together again and says: “Light the candles. Read the Apostle.” And Gerasim, looking one moment at the Gospel book, another moment at the saint, sees the latter’s head crowned with light, his face radiant and filled with Light. He loses his place. The children, too, grow still, and they all realize that the saint has departed. On that very same night, on another island where there were also Aleuts, they saw a kind of form, all of light, ascending up the sky, and said, “The saint is going to Heaven.” On still another island they saw a cloud ascending, and said: “The saint has left us and is going to Heaven.” In fact he had gone to Heaven, but without ever abandoning the earth, his people, or the Church. He left behind his heavy chains, his monastic cap. He left behind as well his cross. Before he died, he said, “I do not want you to honor me at all.”

As you know, most of the saints on dying have said to their monks, “Do not bury me. Let the dogs, the wild beasts, devour me.” Others say: “Plant me in the earth without ceremony,” and others: “Throw me into the sea,” and still others: “Throw me over the cliff. St. Herman said: “Do not bury, me. Do not do anything for me. I want to be, always, the least in the universe.” Yet his children, his orphan children, waited forty days because they did not know what to do. They did not know what to do, and so waited forty days for a priest to come. Why did they wait? Because there was a storm the meanwhile. And why a storm? So that the saint’s wish should come true. Because no priest came, the orphans finally buried him in a shallow grave. And, after another forty days, the priest finally came.

So, beloved, he departed. Yet, he did not depart. He is with us in the Lord and his relic is here. Let us remember what St. Basil the Great says about relics: “You,” he says, “who have touched the bones of a martyr, when you take hold of the relics of the saints, when you kiss them, you partake of the saint’s holiness, you receive the Holy Spirit Who tabernacles in his remains.”

A call to veneration and imitation of the saint

St. Herman's Reliquary. Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral Kodiak, Alaska St. Herman's Reliquary. Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral Kodiak, Alaska     

Now, let us venerate his relic, beloved. As soon as his troparion is sung, they will bring it out and we will venerate it. It is the largest relic of St. Herman to exist outside of the church where his bones are kept.

I want to conclude with something that happened after his death in order to finish by saying how we, as the epistle we are going to read from later on says, may become monks just as he was, monks in our own different ways, each in his or her particular place, in the midst of our daily lives. A ship went out to sea from the colony in Alaska and passed by exactly the harbor of St. Herman’s island. The sea was amazingly calm, amazing because it is almost always rough there and the winds always contrary. So, when the captain saw the sea so calm, he said to himself: “A once in a lifetime chance to make good time!” Everyone on board begged him to stop so they could go and venerate the grave of the holy man. It had already become the custom that, when the ships went out to sea, they stopped and reverenced the saint’s resting place—and those who did not found themselves, more often than not, caught by foul weather, sometimes for as long as a month! In spite of these pleas, the captain decided to go full speed ahead and out to sea.

But what happened? They made good time at first and went far, far out to sea, only to confront a strong contrary wind and be blown right back to the island. There, in the middle of the harbor and with everyone escaping safely, the ship was dashed on the rocks and sank. The only thing left above the water was the tip of the mast, forming a cross. So we are reminded that it is impossible to ignore this saint and fail to venerate him. A cross is indeed our lot if we fail to accept the grace and the Spirit of God that the saint bears in himself—as all saints bear it in themselves.

We, too, have our periods of calm and our times of storm. Whenever we have calm, beauty, peace, and joy in our lives, let us not forget God. Because we usually forget in such circumstances. God would not give us troubles if our good times urged us to ascend to Him more quickly.

So, whenever we do have peace and happiness, then let our prayer increase, and our fasting and vigil, and everything whereby we may draw closer to God.

When, however, we have difficulties, it should be nothing to us. Listen to the Apostle Paul whom we shall read from later: As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities ... labors, vigils ... in purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, in the Holy Spirit ... and the power of God (2 Cor. 6:4-7). He says that in our life we should not serve vanity, nor our bodies, nor the world, nor money, nor anything other than God Who is our Father and Lord. How does he say that we should commend ourselves and prove that we are God’s children? He says, “Through endurance.” Troubles and illnesses will never be lacking. Endurance is the seal on our love for God “in afflictions, in hardships.” When life’s circumstances pursue us, when misfortunes, problems, inequalities beat down on us and break on us, then let us not be afraid. Let us be full of confidence in God “in afflictions, in hardships and calamities.” “In labors”: let us indeed weary ourselves, but in fasting, in prayer, through our love for our husband or wife. Let us take up the burdens of our children especially when we are not especially happy with them. “In vigils”: let us pray and keep watch. Let us be neighbors for others. Vigils are an imitation of the angels. It is the angels who are the greatest keepers of vigils. “In purity”: a pure life. “In knowledge”: let us possess that knowledge that is real. Let us seek out the knowledge of God, of the Church, of Paradise. “In forbearance”: when others make troubles for us, let us be long-suffering. “In kindness”: when those who oppose us are cruel, let us on the other hand be kind. “In the Holy Spirit and the power of God”: let us prove that we carry the seal of Christ. What do these mean, “in the Holy Spirit and the power of God”? The Spirit Himself will teach us their meaning.

Let us touch this relic with our hands and lips, and in our minds let us salute all of our saints, because they—as we have said—are full of the Holy Spirit. They are like a washcloth or sponge. You squeeze, and water runs out. Just so does the Holy Spirit pour out of the saints and fill us up inside. “In the power of God”: the Holy Spirit is the power of God that brings all things to perfection.

We have the saints. Let us love them. I mean, by loving them let us think of them and study them, and the Holy Spirit and the power of God will be all our company and our strength.

I pray that God may so grace all of you though the prayers of the All-Holy Mother of God, and of Sts. Herman and Spyridon. Amen.

Purchase The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos from St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press.

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