The witness of Orthodoxy did not begin in North America with elaborate missionary plans, and programs, but with a handful of monks including our blessed St. Herman, from the Valaam monastery who arrived in Alaska in 1794. The spiritual home of Orthodoxy in North America is not in some palatial and beautiful cathedral in the largest city, but a hand-dug cave that served as his monastic cell and then grave, on an isolated island (Spruce Island). Maybe it is because of the humble beginning of Orthodoxy in North America that the Lord saw fit to take what was foolish in the eyes of the world, and glorify it (1 Cor. 1:18-25), blessing our continent with the saving grace of God’s mercy.
St. Herman was the cornerstone of the tiny Alaskan Orthodox mission. He dedicated his life to God through repentance, prayer, and he served the local Aleut tribes with devotion and selflessness. The example of Orthodoxy’s start in North America should be something of a light for those who are desperately looking for some genuine witness of love, selflessness and humility (especially when it comes to the positive and affirming interaction of Christianity with Indigenous peoples).
It is for those wanting to see a concrete demonstration of God’s mercy in the craziness of 21st century, the life of St. Herman is so important. For as the Lord blessed his labours and love even in isolation and seeming insignificance, He can bless our labours and love. Our Church in North America is a witness of this, our Archdiocese is a witness of this, our little parish is a profound witness of this.
Let us not be disheartened by our lack of resources, our lack of time, our lack of power, but follow the example of offering sacrifice of praise to Christ, seeking His mercy and life itself (Jn. 14:6), and bearing that life to the world.
Great Vespers will be served on Tuesday evening (Dec. 12th) at 6:00 pm and Divine Liturgy on Wednesday morning (Dec. 13th) at 10:00 am
+ Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann (1983)
It is very providential that Fr. Alexander Schmemann reposed in the Lord on the feast day of St. Herman. Although separated by centuries, and cultures, Fr. Alexander’s zeal for the fullness of the faith, complemented the work done by St. Herman in proclaiming a living and dynamic Christianity to a whole new world. Fr. Alexander’s work and countless writings made something seemingly foreign, exotic and esoteric, into something that is accessible and normative for those wanting a deeper and more intimate relationship with our loving God.
It is not an exaggeration that without the freshness and accessibility of Fr. Alexander’s writings (at the time there were very very few books about Orthodoxy theology written by Orthodox Christians available in English), my parents might never have become Orthodox, and by extension I might never have become Orthodox, yet alone a priest!
Our Church today in North America has in many ways been shaped by his love of God, and his tireless proclamation of the Lord’s salvation and victory as manifested in the sacramental life of the Church (especially through the Eucharist). Like St. Herman, the work of Fr. Alexander has been a witness of the Lord’s love as lived out by the Church in North America, our Archdiocese, and especially our little parish.
May his memory be eternal.
We will serve a Panikhida for Fr. Alexander after Vespers on Tuesday (Dec. 12th)