BURBANK, IL [DOM Communications] – Sunday, August 9 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the canonization of St. Herman of Alaska. His glorification took place with great anticipation and joy. St. Herman was the first to bring Orthodoxy to North America; and, his glorification was one of the first acts of the new autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, whose Tomos of Autocephaly had been signed in Moscow just four months earlier in April.
During a regular meeting of the Holy Synod in March of 1969, the bishops issued this proclamation: “In our Archpastoral concern and care for the spiritual progress and well-being of all the faithful children in our care, and remembering that Our Lord gives to all of us the command to increase in our spiritual life to achieve the image of the perfection of our Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:48), and knowing how important it is to have before us in this saintly task the exalted example of such a spiritual feat in the name of Christ (I Tim. 2:12) already revealed in the life of the Holy Church, we, your Archpastors and Servants declare, after a lengthy and all-embracing examination and consideration, in conformity with the Holy Canons and Traditions of our Holy Orthodox Church, that we have defined by our conciliar decision in full unanimity, and firmly believing in the consent of the Holy Spirit in this matter, to accomplish, to the glory of the living God, the canonization of the Venerable Spiritual Father, the monk, Herman of Alaska.”
With this proclamation, the newly formed OCA began making preparations for the canonization of Father Herman on 9 August 1970, in Alaska. “Being filled with joy on the occasion of this forthcoming Great Feast of Faith, we invite all believing people spiritually to prepare themselves with proper disposition for this festival. While canonizing the new Holy Servant of God, the first in America, we once again confirm our faith in the divine counsel, in the perspective of which our local American Church is a historical fact, and we furthermore believe that our Church stands not on the unsure foundations of this world but on the evangelic covenant of Our Savior, ‘Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20).”
Faithful from all over the world gathered in Kodiak, Alaska where St. Herman had reposed in 1837. Bishop Theodosius of Sitka, the future Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, greeted the pilgrims to his diocese and reminded them of Father Herman’s holiness: “Today, it is given us to see the undistorted image of God in the humble face of our brother, Herman of Alaska. Beloved brethren in Christ! In Herman we recognize the beloved figure of the true Orthodox monk, a man of patience, joy and sobriety”
On the eve of August 9, the Canonization Vigil was held at the Church of the Resurrection in Kodiak. His Beatitude Metropolitan Ireney presided with His Eminence Archbishop Paul of Finland, His Eminence Metropolitan Andrew of Bulgaria, their Eminences Archbishops John of Chicago and Kiprian of Philadelphia, their Graces Bishops Theodosius of Sitka, Joasaf of Edmonton and Dmitri of Berkeley. The hierarchs were joined by the Right Reverend Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, the Right Reverend Mitred Archpriest Nicholas Veiglais, the Archpriests John Mason, John Karataeff, Joseph Kreta, and Priests John Psinka, John Sochka, Nikita Komarnitsky, George Gladky, George Afonsky, Ishmael Gromoff, Michael Koblosh, and Protodeacons Innocent Williams and Nicholas Polyansky.
The following day, the Divine Liturgy was served in the early morning by appointed clergy, and then later that morning, the Divine Liturgy was served by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, His Eminence, Archbishop Paul of Finland, His Eminence, Metropolitan Andrew of Bulgaria, their Eminences Archbishops John of Chicago and Kiprian of Philadelphia.
The joy felt by Orthodox Christians throughout North America found expression in a reflection on the canonization of St. Herman offered by Bishop Dimirti (Royster) of Berkey, later Archbishop of Dallas. He stated, “There is no better medicine for a cynical generation such as ours than the glorification of a saint. What we are doing here may seem like utter foolishness to a world that prides itself on its scientific attitude; but, notice how society has taken an interest in this canonization and respects us for our seriousness. The world, without knowing it, perhaps, needs and wants holiness, for holiness means wholeness, integrity, meaning, real humanity, because humanity is real only when it knows and loves God. Therefore, this must be far more than a series of impressive ceremonies; it must be the very source of inspiration that will set the direction of our Orthodox Church in America for her future.”
Since his glorification, St. Herman of Alaska has been commemorated on August 9. Pilgrims from all over the world come to venerate his relics and ask for his prayers. Countless churches have been named in his honor, as well as monasteries, missionary efforts, and other honorable institutions.