Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From Valaam to Alaska

Faithful in various churches around the world are now immersed in the season of Lent, designated as a time of contemplation, prayer, fasting and alms-giving.

Above is a video of monks from Valaam Monastery ("the Northern Athos"), on the very edge of Russia, near Finland, chanting the hymn, "Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride." Valaam Monastery is the home of a substantial spiritual lineage.

Abbot Nazarius of Valaam Monastery was responsible for sending the first group of monks to Alaska in 1794. An aside: there is a depiction of St. Seraphim of Sarov in the above video: St. Seraphim was also a friend of Abbot Nazarius. The monks of Valaam, including one now known as St. Herman of Alaska, were appalled at the treatment of the local Native population by the Russian-American Company, and became their protectors and defenders.

St. Herman, never officially ordained, was called "Apa" (father) by the local Aleuts. He settled, eventually, on a small island off Kodiak: Spruce Island, now home to a Native village, and a place of pilgrimage.

An icon of St. Herman of Alaska, written (icons are considered to be "written", instead of painted, images) by a dear friend.

Spruce Island: "Little Valaam."

The prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian is considered the symbol of Lent by many:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

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(for erin) when i ask, where have the redpolls gone, and why the silence at my seed station your eyes, unbidden twin candles startle ...

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