Orthodox river Fr. Athanasius Kone SEPTEMBER 18, 2019
A Talk Delivered at the Saint Herman Winter Pilgrimage, December 25, 1979, at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. By Hieromonk Seraphim Rose St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, Ca. source
We have gathered here today to venerate St. Herman, first saint of the American land, first Orthodox missionary to America, bringer of Orthodox Christianity to the New World. This feast gives us an opportunity to look at the Orthodoxy he brought: what has happened to it since his time, where it stands in this country today, what are the hopes for it — and for us, who are today’s Orthodox Christians — in the years ahead, nearly two hundred years after the seeds of the true faith were planted here.
I will say only a few words about the past of Orthodoxy in America, in order to concentrate chiefly on what faces us today.
The past of Orthodoxy in America
First of all, of course, there was the mission of St. Herman himself, with the seven other missionaries who came with him from Valaam and Konevits Monasteries in the north of Russia in 1794. It is really astonishing what an Orthodox foundation these missionaries laid in Alaska, considering how few they were and what obstacles they faced. One of these eight, Fr. loasaph, was consecrated bishop in order to increase the work in America, but he was lost at sea on the return voyage before he could even begin his work. There were few priests in the early years, St. Herman himself wasn’t a priest, and the Russian officials in Alaska were not very cooperative — but in those years thousands of natives were baptized, and their descendants remain Orthodox today; and with St. Herman’s labors as a monk, preacher, and carer of orphans, America saw for the first time a living example of the traditional Orthodox piety and spiritual life which made Holy Russia. This is something very important for our Orthodoxy today — this example of true Orthodox Christianity in practice.