Spruce Island, Alaska, USA: A pilgrimage to the Athos of America


Spruce Island, Alaska, USA

A pilgrimage to the Athos of America


Native American Pathways to Orthodoxy – Marriane Poulos



Native American Pathways to Orthodoxy


Marriane Poulos





I first felt the words of Christ come to life on a Pueblo Native American reservation in New Mexico, at “Ok’Ay Oh Ween Geh,” (Place of the Strong People.) The first time I stepped into the home of my Pueblo friend I was told, “This is not just my home, it is yours, too. And know that you always have a place to come home to, no matter how long it takes you to return.” How Christ-like this Indian elder was. The more our friendship grew, the more I was able to admire his goodness. Once I even saw him give the last of his money to an enemy. I also began to learn more of his people’s history. When the Spanish first came to the Southwest they called the Native Americans pagans. By force the colonizers converted them to Catholicism. They severely beat and hung many tribal leaders unless they allowed themselves to be baptized, immediately. They were made slaves. They were given Spanish names. “The Continue reading “Native American Pathways to Orthodoxy – Marriane Poulos”

And I, a sinner, have been trying to love God for more than forty years – Saint Herman of Alaska (+1836)



And I, a sinner, have been trying to love God for more than forty years

Saint Herman of Alaska (+1836)

Saint Herman of Alaska:

“And I, a sinner, have been trying to love God for more than forty years, and cannot say that I perfectly love Him. If we love someone we always remember him and try to please him; day and night our heart is occupied with that object.

Is that how you, gentlemen, love God? Do you often turn to Him, do you always remember Him, do you always pray to Him and fulfill His holy commandments? ‘For our good, for our happiness at least let us make a vow that from this day, from this hour, from this minute we shall strive to love God above all else and to fulfill His holy will.’”




A terrible accident has a power to awaken us – Saint Herman of Alaska (+1836)



A terrible accident has a power to awaken us

Saint Herman of Alaska (+1836)

Saint Herman of Alaska:

“A terrible accident has a power to awaken us to the realization of the existence of various calamities and dangers surrounding us, from which the Providence of God preserves us. At the same time it convincingly persuades us to acknowledge our own infirmity and weakness and to seek the Father’s protection and His most powerful defense, which affirms us in the Wisdom and the Word of God, which came down from above by the will of the Heavenly Father under a curtain of flesh like ours, woven by the Divine Might from the Immaculate Virgin, for our salvation. He became man and taught us to pray that we be not led into temptation. This reminds us from what Father we have our existence, and this in turn should make us seek our heavenly Fatherland and our eternal inheritance.”




St. Herman’s Spiritual Daughters: St. Nilus Skete, Alaska



St. Herman’s Spiritual Daughters:

St. Nilus Skete, Alaska





Living in solitude, I occupy myself with searching the spiritual writings: above all I search the Lord’s commandments and their commentaries, and the Apostolic traditions; then the Lives and Instructions of the Holy Fathers. I reflect on all this, and whatever I find after reflection to be God-pleasing and useful for my soul, I copy out for myself. In this is my life and breath.

St. Nilus of Sora

* * *

Nestled between Kodiak Island and St. Herman’s Spruce Island, amidst cold Alaskan waters, lies an emerald islet, forested by towering spruce trees, buffeted by powerful winds. A myriad of birds—eagles, swallows, warblers, seagulls—find refuge here, and colorful tufted puffins nest each summer in its craggy black cliffs. A large Orthodox cross stands above the main shore as one approaches the island by boat. Behind the trees is a wooden church modeled after the fifteenth-century Russian church of St. Nilus of Sora. On this tiny island live women who have dedicated their lives to God and seek to have a living communion with Him apart from distractions. Nearby is Monk’s Lagoon on Spruce Island where St. Herman of Alaska lived at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This beloved saint brought Holy Orthodox Christianity and monasticism to America in 1794 from Valaam Monastery in Northern Russia. Surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation and often cut off completely from the world by violent winter storms, conditions here are ideal for solitude. One is able to free oneself from the distractions of modern life and to cast the heart’s gaze inward, striving to seek God alone and to love Him above all.

The Monastic Way of Life

With St. Nilus as guide and patron, the nuns seek to emulate the monastic ideals of poverty, asceticism and interior prayer. Known for his extreme simplicity and voluntary poverty, St. Nilus emphasized the inner life of the monastic—the inward self-trial and practice of the Jesus Prayer. St. Nilus’ rule of life consists of two to twelve monastics living in cells clustered around the church—the skete form of monastic life. Called the royal path, it avoids both the trials of the large coenobitic monastery and the dangers inherent in the Continue reading “St. Herman’s Spiritual Daughters: St. Nilus Skete, Alaska”

Glorification of the Venerable Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America




Glorification of the Venerable Herman of Alaska,

Wonderworker of All America





Venerable Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America. A spiritual mission was organized in 1793, made up of monks of the Valaam Monastery. They were sent to preach the Word of God to the native inhabitants of northwestern America, who only ten years before had come under the sovereignty of Russia. St Herman was among the members of this Mission.

St Herman came from a family of merchants of Serpukhov, a city of the Moscow Diocese. His name before he was tonsured, and his family name are not known. (The monastic name is given when a monk takes his vows). He had a great zeal for piety from youth, and at sixteen he entered monastic life. (This was in 1772, if we assume that Herman was born in 1756, although sometimes 1760 is given as the date of his birth.) First he entered the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage which was located near the Gulf of Finland on the Peterhof Road, about 15 versts (about 10 miles) from St Petersburg.


At the St Sergius Hermitage there occurred the following incident to Father Herman. On the right side of his throat under his chin there appeared an abscess. The swelling grew rapidly, disfiguring his face. It became difficult for him to swallow, and the odor was unbearable. In this critical condition Father Herman awaited death. He did not appeal to a physician of this world, but locking his cell he fell before an icon of the Queen of Heaven. With fervent tears he prayed, asking of Her that he might be healed. He prayed the whole night. Then he took a wet towel and with it wiped the face of the Most Holy Mother, and with this towel he covered the swelling. He continued to pray with tears until he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion on the floor. In a dream he saw the Virgin Mary healing him.

When Herman awoke in the morning, he found to his great surprise that he was fully healed. The swelling had disappeared, even though the abscess had not broken through, leaving behind but a small mark as though a reminder of the miracle. Physicians to whom this healing was described did not believe it, arguing that it was necessary for the abscess to have either broken through of its own accord or to have been cut open. But the words of the physicians were the words of human experience, for where the grace of God operates there the order of nature is overcome. Such occurrences humble human reason under the strong hand of God’s Mercy.


For five or six years Father Herman continued to live in the St Sergius Hermitage, and then he transferred to the Valaam Monastery, which was widely scattered on the large islands in the waters of the great Lake Ladoga. He came to love the Valaam haven with all his soul, as he came to love its unforgettable Superior, the pious Elder Nazarius, and all the brethren. He Continue reading “Glorification of the Venerable Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America”

Προσκυνητής στη μακρινή Αλάσκα στα μέρη που περπάτησε ο Αγιος Γερμανός της Αλάσκας



Προσκυνητής στη μακρινή Αλάσκα 

στα μέρη που περπάτησε ο Αγιος Γερμανός της Αλάσκας

Φτάνοντας στην άκρη του κόσμου,σ’ένα μέρος ειδωλολατρικό,στα πλαίσια μιας ορθόδοξης αποστολής η οποία είχε ξεκινήσει από τη Μονή Βαλαάμ το 1764 προς την Αλάσκα-γη ρωσική τότε-ο Άγιος Γερμανός έφερε μαζί του δυό πράγματα:Την ευχή του Ιησού και ένα αντίγραφο της Φιλοκαλίας στα σλαβονικά μεταφρασμένη από τον Άγ.Παίσιο Βελιτσικόφσκυ στη Μονή Νεάμτς.Εξ’άλλου μια τοιχογραφία στο εκκλησάκι του που βρίσκεται στο νησί Σπρούς γράφει:«The repose of Saint Herman on the day of his beloved St.Paisius»(Ο Άγιος Γερμανός εκοιμήθη την ημέρα που τιμούμε τη μνήμη του αγαπητού του Αγ.Παισίου).

18 Φεβρουαρίου 2009

Στα παγωμένα νερά του Ειρηνικού Ωκεανού,πάνω σε μια μηχανοκίνητη βάρκα,κατευθυνόμαστε προς το νησί Σπρούς,αναζητώντας τα μέρη όπου έζησε ο Άγ.Γερμανός της Αλάσκας,ο πρώτος ορθόδοξος άγιος της Αμερικής.Όταν οι μοναχοί της Μονής Πλάτινα της Καλιφόρνιας άκουσαν ότι θέλουμε να πάμε στην Αλάσκα αυτήν την περίοδο(ήταν Φεβρουάριος)γέλασαν συγκαβατικά.:”Να ξέρετε ότι και το καλοκαίρι μπορείς να μείνεις αποκλεισμένος στο νησί Κόντιακ για μία εβδομάδα,μέχρι να γίνει κατάλληλος ο καιρός για να ταξιδέψεις μέχρι το νησί του Αγ.Γερμανού!Ο ωκεανός δεν σε δέχεται οποτεδήποτε…Ας γίνει όμως το θέλημα του Αγ.Γερμανού!”Έτσι μας είπαν αργότερα και οι νεαροί ορθόδοξοι αμερικανοί μοναχοί,οι οποίοι βρίσκονται απομονωμένοι στον Ειρηνικό Ωκεανό όπως κάποτε οι πρώτοι μοναχοί στην έρημο της Αιγύπτου ή ο Άγ.Νείλος Σόρσκυ στην απεραντοσύνη της τούνδρας της Βόρειας Ρωσίας

Τόσο η σκήτη στο νησί Νίλους(όπου μονάζουν τέσσερις μοναχές,όσο και η σκήτη του Αρχαγγέλου Μιχαήλ στο νησί Σπρούς (όπου μονάζουν τρεις μοναχοί) είναι Continue reading “Προσκυνητής στη μακρινή Αλάσκα στα μέρη που περπάτησε ο Αγιος Γερμανός της Αλάσκας”