Friday, June 21, 2013

St. Herman of Alaska & The Science of Sciences

In the life of St. Herman titled Herman: A Wilderness Saint, the following remarkable letter is referenced and, after coming across it, I felt compelled to share it. It was written in 1819 by Simeon Ivanovich Ianaovskii some time after he had become the main ruler of the Russian colonies in America (e.g. Alaska), where St. Herman was the head of the spiritual mission. The letter cites a malady all too common in the modern world -- certainly not unique to early 19th century Russia -- and its cure. Enjoy:
   I was thirty years old when I met Father Herman. It should be mentioned that I trained at a naval college. I knew much science and had read widely but, unfortunately, the science of sciences -- that is, the Law of God -- I hardly understood even superficially and what I did know was theoretical, not applied to life. I was a Christian only in name, while in my soul and in action, I was a free-thinker and a deist. In this I was like almost everyone who has been trained in colleges and official institutions...
    What is more, I did not acknowledge the divine nature and sanctity of our religion; I had read many of the godless essays of Voltaire and other philosophers of the eighteenth century.
    Father Herman immediately noticed this and wanted to convert me. It was not easy! I had to be convinced, to be shown the holiness of our faith; this is why it required time, knowledge, and the ability to speak well and convincingly.
    To my great surprise, this simple uneducated monk, Father Herman, inspired by grace, spoke so forcefully, so wisely, and argued so convincingly that it seemed to me no erudition or earthly wisdom could hold out against his words! Father Herman truly had a great mind, sound thought, and had read many spiritual books; most importantly, he had the grace of God!
    We spoke unceasingly: about love, about God, about eternity, about the salvation of the soul, about the Christian life, and other things. An unceasing flood of sweet conversation flowed from his mouth!
    Through such constant talks and by the prayers of the holy elder, the Lord converted me wholly to the path of truth, and I became a true Christian. For all of this, I am obliged to Father Herman; he is my true benefactor. 
O Blessed Father Herman of Alaska, together with all the Saints and the Heavenly Hosts, pray to God that on each of us He will bestow wisdom for our mind, strength for our will, light for our spirit, enabling us to attain to the true peace of life which is from God alone. Amen.

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