Wisdom From St. Herman of Alaska

When I was received into the Orthodox Church, I adopted a baptismal name of Herman after St. Herman of Alaska. Whenever I participate in a sacrament of the church, I am referred to as Germanos in honor of the saint. [Germanos is the Hellenized version of the Anglicized version (Herman) of the Russian name German. Got that?] 

I chose the name Herman because I so admired the life and works of the Saint. He was an austere monk who worked tirelessly for the mission to Alaska. He is renowned for his advocacy of the native Alaskans who were being horribly abused by his own fellow Russian countrymen. Herman took up the cause of the welfare of the indigenous people, teaching them how to cultivate vegetables in the inhospitable Aleutian climate and instructing them in the Christian faith. As a testament to his character, he came to be referred to as “Father Herman,” although he was never ordained a priest. He lived a solitary life and eschewed the comforts of civilized life. He slept on a wooden pallet and covered himself with a wooden board. He wore wrought iron chains as a reminder of his own sinfulness. 

I write all of this because as I was revisiting some of St. Herman’s writings, I read the following passage that is apropos of my prior posts on simplicity and contentment. I want you, my readers, to understand the character of the person from whom this this is coming. Please take this to heart:

“The vain desires of this world separate us from our homeland; love of them and habit clothe our soul as if in a hideous garment. We, traveling on the journey of this life and calling on God to help us, ought to be divesting ourselves of this hideous garment and clothing ourselves in new desires, in new love of the age to come, and thereby receive knowledge of how near or far we are from our heavenly homeland. But it is not possible to do this quickly; rather one must follow the example of sick people, who, wishing health, do not leave off seeking means to cure themselves.” (June 20, 1820)


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