Saint Herman of Alaska Converser With Angels
At the end of the 1930’s and the beginning of the 1940’s, when the Russian Orthodox Church in America was under the Synod Abroad, I spent more than three years as a pastor in Alaska, where right and left I heard a great number of stories about Father Herman, the Wonderworker of Alaska. People told of his ascetic life, of his miracles, many cases of miraculous help from the water of his spring, from placing earth from his grave on diseased places, cases of sight restored to the blind, of the healing of every kind of cripple, and so on. Of course, one doesn’t remember everything. It was a long time ago, and for some reason I didn’t write anything down then. I remember very well that a great deal was said. I myself spoke with those who had received miraculous help by the prayers of God’s saint.
While I was serving in Kodiak as a priest, the Aleuts there also told me much about Father Herman, and of this the following two incidents stand out sharply in my mind; as I recall, I’ve never come across them anywhere in print, but they seem nonetheless quite authentic.
The Aleuts related that when Father Herman was still alive and lived on Spruce Island, the local inhabitants used to go to the Elder for some reason or other. And more than once it happened thus: They approached the chapel where he celebrated divine services, and they heard superb choral singing, a multitude of voices singing. They wondered where the people had come from. And all this time the singing was clearly audible, and such harmonious, sweet singing . . . They opened the door into the little chapel, and there Father Herman stood alone reading, chanting half aloud, celebrating the Lord’s service. And of course he was alone and there was no one there with him. Father Herman was not a priest, and he could only read and sing as on the cliros. And such a thing was noticed more than once. It was angels of God who sang praises to the Lord with him. The biography of Father Herman records the following incident. The Elder was asked: “How do you live alone in the forest, Father Herman? Don’t you become bored?” He replied: “No! I am not alone there! God is there, as God is everywhere. Holy Angels are there. How can one become bored with them? With whom is it better and more pleasant to converse, with men or with Angels? With Angels, of course!”
Archpriest Prokopy Povarnitsyn
St. Herman of Alaska Wonderworker of All America (1751-1836)
Commemorated November 15, December 13/25, and July 27/August 8
Irmos: Thou hast placed toward us a steadfast love, O Lord…
O Herman, Saint, the people were amazed and wondered how thou couldst live alone in the forest. I am not alone, thou didst say, but God is with me, Who is everywhere, and His holy angels. Thus, how can one be downcast, having such company. And now, abiding in the heavens, do not abandon us who dwell on earth.
Irmos: Standing together in the unbearable fire, the Youths…
Filled with the song of angels, thy forest cell was empty, save for thee alone, singing, while the people greatly wondered. And again an angel served thee, sanctifying the waters with the Jordan’s blessing, calling: O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord and exalt Him above all forever.