Fifty-one years ago, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in coordination with the Orthodox Church of America canonized America’s own beloved saint, our holy Father Herman of Alaska. We reproduce for our readers on the day of the commemoration of his glorification the inspiring ROCOR documents for the canonization.
UKASE No. 684 OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OUTSIDE OF RUSSIA
To Diocesan Bishops and to Rectors of Churches Directly Under the Chairman of the Synod of Bishops
ON MAY 23 (June 5), 1970, we heard: the Report of His Eminence Anthony, Archbishop of Western America and San Francisco, concerning the approaching canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska, which in accordance with the earlier decree of the Synod of Bishops is to take place on Sunday, July 27 (August 9) of this year.
WE HAVE DECREED:
The solemnities will begin in the Cathedral of the “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in the city of San Francisco on Saturday, July 26 (August 8), when in the morning a requiem Liturgy will be celebrated for the ever-memorable Elder, Monk Herman. The final panihkida will be served in the evening before the Vigil, and then at the All-night Vigil there will already be celebrated the Service to Saint Herman, joined to the Sunday Service in accordance with the rules governing the feast day of a Temple. The solemnities will continue on the following day, Sunday (Liturgy, moleben with church procession, and banquet). It is the utmost to be desired that all Reverend Bishops, clergy, and faithful for whom it is possible, would take part in this canonization. The Cathedral Church of the Most Holy Mother of God, “The Joy of All Who Sorrow,” in San Francisco has been designated as the place of canonization. The dioceses of North America (and others, if possible) should be represented by special delegations. The Holy Trinity Monastery, under the supervision of the Most Reverend Archbishop Averky, is preparing for publication the Service and icons of the Saint, which will be sent through diocesan administrations to the parishes. In all churches of the Diaspora there should be celebrated on Sunday, July 27 (August 9), after the Divine Liturgy, a moleben to St. Herman of Alaska, with which the celebration of services to him as a Saint will begin (except at the place of canonization). The full Service to Saint Herman in churches other than at the place of canonization should be celebrated on the day of his commemoration, December 13 (26). I
26 May (8 June), 1970 New York City
Substitute of the Chairman of the Synod of Bishops + Archbishop Nikon
Secretary + Bishop Laurus
THE EPISTLE OF METROPOLITAN PHILARET
On the Canonization of Our Holy and God-bearing Father Saint Herman of Alaska
OUR BELOVED FLOCK, Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice! (Phil. 4: 4). Remember with what feeling five years ago we greeted the day of the glorification of the righteous St John of Kronstadt. The ever-memorable Metropolitan Anastassy, who had participated in the glorification of St. Hermogen (in 1913), in that year of 1964 had already lost his physical strength and laid aside the burden of church administration. But the All-High, Who once strengthened St. Simeon the God-receiver, on that day drew our elder and father to his Cathedral Church for divine service and a meeting with grace.
But the Apostle insists: And again I say, Rejoice! Come, then, all those who ask God’s mercy and His help, as the Church refers to all of us.
When we pray for this help at the All-night Vigil, as intercessors for us we call upon those who have pleased God: the Mother of God, God’s angels, the Forerunner, the Apostles and so on; not being able to enumerate the whole multitude of saints, we commemorate a selected list of them. This sacred list of names is perpetually supplemented and renewed. During the past three-quarters of a century we have begun to invoke St. Seraphim and the Hierarchs Theodosius, Ioasaph, Hermogen, Pitirim, John, Sophronius, and Joseph. Finally, in these prayers has resounded the name of the righteous St. John of Kronstadt. And now, children, we join to these sacred names yet another name: that of our venerable and God-bearing Father Herman of Alaska.
The veneration of St. Herman ripened persistently in the bosom of the Russian Church. He was written about in the book Ascetics of Valaam, in the Theological Encyclopaedia, in the Outline of the Russian Spiritual Mission in America, in the books of E. Poselyanin, and, of course, in the well-known work of Bishop Nikodim of Belgorod, who was later martyred by the Bolsheviks, Ascetics of the Russian Land in the 18th and 19th Centuries. In the December volume of the latter book there is a separate article about the Elder Herman; but in order to demonstrate with what force the consciousness of the Church set apart the ascetic labor of the Elder, even as compared with other ascetics, let us here cite the words of this same work, but from the February volume, from the article on the Abbot of Valaam, Nazary. Here there is an account of the Abbot’s selection of missionaries for America from among the monks of Valaam, and further on it is said: “Among these elect the following especially stood out: Archimandrite loasaph, the head of the Mission, who drowned after being elevated to the office of bishop—his activity, while by God’s decrees it was brief, brought great benefit; the zealous Hieromonk Juvenal, who earned a martyr’s crown, and the Monk Herman, who labored for forty years in apostolic self-denial, manifesting gifts of clairvoyance and miracles, and reposed in the fragrance of sanctity” (p. 304).
Thus was it written at the beginning of our century, but even in the ‘60’s of the last century, that is, thirty years after the repose of Elder Herman, which was in 1837, the renowned Abbot of Valaam, Damascene, hearing of the veneration of Father Herman in Alaska, commenced the gathering of information about him.
The life of the Saint is most moving. And now you who have not heard it or read it will both hear it and read it. Herman was a contemporary of St. Seraphim, three years older than he, and outlived him by four years. He was the spiritual son of Abbot Nazary of Valaam, who took part in the publication of Paissy (Velickkovsky’s) Philocalia— that revelation of the art of arts, inner prayer. Thus in the Russian “Spiritual Meadow” of the second half of the 18th century there are interwoven the names of St. Seraphim, the Elder Paissy Velichkovsky, Abbot Nazary (who died et Sarov), and St. Herman, with, of course, many other names which mean much to a spiritual person.
Father Herman, coming as a youth to the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage near Petersburg, was, like St. Seraphim, granted a miraculous healing by the Mother of God. Having gone soon thereafter to wondrous Valaam, which he came to love dearly, he had experience already there, with the blessing of his elder, of the anchoretic life. Under obedience he left with the Mission to America. There could not be any monastic community there, but Herman himself was the bearer of the ancient spirit of asceticism: strict fasting, a shirt for clothing, a bench for bed, a log for pillow, a board for blanket, chains; austerity toward himself, but a wonderful meekness with his neighbors. He built an orphanage for children, fearless during an epidemic, he gave himself over to caring for the contagiously ill. Around him were poverty, danger from the natives, and great affliction from his own countrymen. The traders, and foremost among them the head of the Russian colony, looked after their own profit and colonizing interests, behaving cruelly with people, in the spirit of their age. And it was here that the Elder Herman, although in his great humility he had refused the priesthood, revealed himself as the model of a true compassionate pastor, and in his own words he wished to be “nurse” for these Aleuts and other local tribes. This gave birth to a responsive love in hearts simple but sensitive to good, and the Lord aided the Elder by the grace both of clairvoyance and of miracle-working. The Life tells of the Elder’s taming of the elements of both fire and water. And from his repose until the present day those who call on his name have many times received healing or other help. The Life tells also about the high character of the instruction of this apparently simple monk Herman. The best living testimony to this grace-filled instruction of the Elder’s was the Schema-monk Sergius, a highly educated person, who in the world was the naval officer S. N. Yanovsky and for a short time after Baranov was also the head of the Russian colonies in America. Under the sole influence of the Elder Herman this prominent Russian public figure, and his children as well, accepted monasticism. His life in itself is full of edification. The principal information about the life of St. Herman was given by him; the first graphic portrayal of the Elder belongs to his daughter-novice.
The repose of the Elder was truly in the fragrance of sanctity; he reposed having known beforehand the day of his death, having foretold the circumstances of his burial in the wilderness without people; and he departed to the Lord as if on the eve of Pascha, with candles lit at his command, with the reading of the Acts of the Apostles by his disciple.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia should naturally approach the canonization of saints without haste. Thus, in spite of the “immeasurable sea of miracles” (Akathist to St. Nicholas) of which there is testimony concerning the righteous St. John of Kronstadt, our fathers wavered between the desire to glorify him in general and the intent to glorify him in Russia. Only at the time of the Sobor in 1964 did the fervent desire to pray to the righteous John as a glorified saint overcome all other motives.
It was difficult to proceed to the present canonization as long as the canonization of the universally-renowned miracle-worker John of Kronstadt was still being postponed. But even at the Sobor of 1939 in Sremsky-Karlovtsy, during consideration of this question, Metropolitan Anastassy explained that Elder Herman was venerated in Alaska as a saint, and that the question of his canonization had already arisen in America. Then it was decided to write to Bishop Alexy of Alaska concerning the preparatory process necessary for the canonization. This was when the American Metropolia was part of our Church Abroad. In the same year at the Sobor of Bishops in America, the chairmanship of the committee for preparation of the canonization was entrusted to Archbishop Tikhon, who later laid the foundation of the new San Francisco Cathedral of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Joy of All Who Sorrow, where it has now been decreed that the glorification of the Saint be celebrated.
A special veneration for the memory of Elder Herman was held by the successor of Archbishop Tikhon, Archbishop John of Western America and San Francisco. In his cell to the present day the Elder’s portrait hangs together with the icons. In San Francisco, with the blessing of the late Vladika John, there was organized a Brotherhood of St. Herman of Alaska, which undertook a responsible missionary and publishing activity. With a large circulation in English, but also in Russian, the brothers have acquainted their readers with the life and miracles of the Elder, who spiritually nourished and gave growth to the beginnings of Orthodoxy in America. On the feast of Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam and on the day of the repose of Elder Herman there has been, from the time of Archbishop John, a panikhida served for Elder Herman in the printshop of the brothers; and afterwards the Magnification has been sung before his iconographic image, in anticipation and expectation of his canonization by the Church.
At the Sobor of 1964, in connection with the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt, we asked ourselves: And will those who are not within the enclosure of the Russian Church Abroad canonize the new Wonderworker?... At the same time, in connection with the preparations of the American Metropolia for the canonization of St. Herman (concerning which there was talk even then), we said to ourselves that no initiative in this matter would prevent our own canonization of Elder Herman.
And so be it. This glorification of St. Herman was conceived in the hearts of the Elder’s contemporaries, the simple Aleuts whom he tenderly loved, was carried at first in the womb of the Homeland which we share with the Elder, and then in America, when the American Metropolis was still with us. And when now this Metropolis was the first to draw its conclusion, we did not in the most hesitate to draw also our own conclusion to the veneration of the Elder Herman and designate the same date for the glorification as the Metropolia’s. This was still before the latest church events, over which we grieve; but of them, for the sake of the Saint’s glorification, we shall not speak here. The conclusion has been drawn to that veneration which has existed for more than a hundred years; and it was also about a hundred years ago that the first See of the Russian Church in America was founded, which was then in San Francisco.
And for you, beloved, as for all who will call on the help of St. Herman, we with all that consolation which the meek, newly-glorified Saint of God, Herman, is powerful to solicit both now and in the future. May this glorification be grace-giving and sanctifying to each of the faithful, to the much-suffering Russian people from which the Saint has come, to Alaska, and to all America, to the harsh Northwest of which St. Herman, with his fellow-laborers, brought the light of Christ. Amen.
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Metropolitan Philaret on Blessed Father Herman to the Orthodox Christians in Australia:
“Such was our own native Ascetic of piety,” writes our Metr. Philaret, “with many both general Orthodox and specifically Russian characteristics of this piety, who came to the wild inhabitants of north-western America in 1794 and reposed in the Lord on December 13th, 1837. He died having known beforehand the hour of his repose, while candles were burning at his command and the Acts of the Apostles were being read, as if also preparing for Pascha—but an eternal Pascha. The writer of his Life says that his face shone and the cell was filled with fragrance.”
The canonization of the saints of God is nurtured in the Church’s bosom gradually. The question is tested by the attitudes of our fathers and ancestors in faith, and in this fashion there matures the Church’s glorification of a saint.
Before the universal church conscience of the Church Outside of Russia there stands a special circumstance: there is no exceptionally abundant literature or multitude of documentary testimony as there was concerning the righteous St. John of Kronstadt. “But,” writes Metropolitan Philaret, “we have what we do have: the faith of our ever-memorable fathers and predecessors from Archbishop [later Metropolitan] Innocent to Metropolitan Anastassy and other of our hierarchs who have reposed, in the God-pleasing labors and ascetic deeds of the Elder Herman.”
Holy Father Herman, pray to God for us!
Word of the Church, 1969, no. 8-9