(A Brief Synopsis) What I have been given in the Church ~ The Protection and Shelter of the Saints ~ Part II
Icon of St. Herman of Alaska from Holy Dormition Monastery. Icon of St. Herman of Alaska, made by my Ottawa Parish, from a print from Greece; Picture taken by author.
Note: This is a continuation of my series on what I have been given in the (Eastern Orthodox) Church. Part One is found here.
The Protection and Shelter of the Saints ~ Part II: Saints Herman and Nicholas
Saint Herman of Alaska
While at St. Herman’s Orthodox Church in Langley, BC I would look at St. Herman’s icon on their iconostasis. St. Herman always looked worried for me, like a Father worried for his child. St. Herman loves many and is loved by many. St. Herman was my first Saint; I felt his care and closeness before all others. In my third church, I would stand in the back right by the icon of St. Herman. During the week I would think of his protection when walking home alone on cold winter nights, returning from where I was doing my graduate studies. It would be nearing 11 o’clock at night, I had to walk in poorly lit streets, passing at least one bar; the streets were always deserted, I sensed unsavouriness nearby. I would have my keys in hand, my only (physical) defense, a weak one at that. My real defense was that every night, I would walk thinking of St. Herman walking with me, holding my hand, like a father would hold his daughter’s. His icon is in all of the Churches I have belonged to (over 5 churches due to various moves in the last 12 years). He is a much loved Saint and one of the first Saints in North America. St. Herman lived in Alaska, protected the Native Alaskans from the fur traders and is considered a father and grandfather figure to many in Alaska, still today.
Donald Sheehan writes a moving account of St. Herman’s continued presence with us. Sheehan writes of his family’s trip to Spruce Island, where St. Herman lived in Alaska. A man, named Herman, took them there by boat. He relates:
“We stepped out the door. Our son went ahead, then Herman, and my wife and I a little behind them. Then it came to us, to both of us at once: an indescribably sweet odor at once powerful and gentle, an odor like nothing in this world. Our eyes quickly scanned the forest of moss-covered evergreen and found nothing in bloom. Then we turned to one another. On my wife’s face I read perfect joy.
Herman had stopped. “You coming?”
“What’s that amazing odor?” I asked, filled with a trembling delight.
“Oh”, said Herman, stepping back towards us, his dark-gold face lit in smiling. “That’s Father Herman, some people notice it, that’s the land remembering him.””
St. Nicholas of Myra
Saint Nicholas is one of the most well-known of all the Saints; he is remembered weekly in the Orthodox Church calendar (every Thursday); thousands upon thousands of children remember him, calling him St. Nick, Sinterklaas or Santa Claus. Many receive gifts on his day (December 6 on the Gregorian calendar, December 19 on the Julian calendar); gifts include chocolate coins, treats and toys. St. Nicholas is associated with gift giving because, when he was still young, he learned of the plight of a father with 3 unmarried daughters. In that time, the daughter would need a dowry to get married. The family had fallen into great poverty, to the point that no dowries could be had; worse than this, the father was being tempted to have his daughters trade their bodies for money, a fate one could consider to be worse than death. The Synaxarion tells us how St. Nicholas rescued these three girls:
….“from the time of [St. Nicholas’] parent’s death and his giving away his inheritance to the needy, the virtue of almsgiving became his greatest glory […]. He regarded himself merely as the steward of goods which belonged to the poor and took particular care to keep his good deeds secret, so as not to lose the heavenly reward (cf Matt. 6:7). On three occasions he secretly left gold enough for the marriage portions of three maidens who their debt-ridden father intended to give up to prostitution. When the man eventually discovered his good deed, Nicolas made him promise, as he valued his salvation, to tell no one of it.”
St. Nicholas helps many; I know he prays for me. When I desperately needed money in school I received news of an unexpected bursary (an educational grant) on St. Nicholas day. I was chrismated in his church; I have been moved to tears praying for beloved ones in my life who are in distress and cried out to St. Nicholas to save them. A hieromonk once told some of us a story about how he was running out of firewood (his only source of heat) and he got more suddenly, on St. Nicholas day. Good friends of mine also received unexpected money when they were students on his day. Years ago, an Abbess told me to pray to St. Nicholas for a husband and this prayer has indeed been answered and is a continued unfolding miracle in my life.
The Prologue of Ohrid, by Saint Nikolaj Velimirović, says about St. Nicholas:
“Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and goodwill among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, AD 343”
Saint Nicholas rests in Bari, Italy. I know some who have visited him there and felt a deep sense of St. Nicholas’ presence; they were deeply encouraged. St. Nicholas continues to intercede, bless and provide succor to many in this world of sorrows.Show Sources
(1) [Original material was first published as] Elizabeth Roosje. “(A Brief Synopsis) What I have been given in the Church.” Roosje: Little Rose, Blogger, December 20, 2008
(2) I was at St. Herman’s for about 7 months before I moved to Grand Rapids MI, where I was chrismated
(3) Donald Sheehan. The Grace of Incorruption. “The Spirit of God Moved Upon the Face of the Waters”. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2015, pps. 70, 73.
(4) Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra. The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, 7 vols. Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady: Ormylia (Chalkidike), 1999.
(5) The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church” Vol. 2, November, December. “The Sixth Day of December: The 6th of the month, Memory of our Father among the Saints NICOLAS the Wonderworker, Archbishop of MYRA.” The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church” Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia (Chalkidike), 1999.
(6) St Nikolai of Zica (Velimirovic). The Prologue of Ohrid. “December 6”. Western American Diocese of Serbian Orthodox Church of North and South America. http://westsrbdio.org/en/prologue/715-december-6 Accessed: Sept 10, 2016.