We met with Father Patrick last night at the end of which meeting Father gave me two items that he’d collected on his visit to Alaska earlier this year. He’d told me about the gifts earlier, shortly after he returned home, but I haven’t seen him outside of services (except for one meeting), and just kept forgetting to ask him about them. Last night I remembered.
Father Patrick was able to visit the grave of our American patron saint, Father Herman of Alaska. He took away from it a pine cone from right where the grave is located, and a stone from the beach where St. Herman would embark in his kayak out onto the open sea. I am grateful, and even more so that Father made a point to collect these things for me and our Father Deacon (who received his own relics). Of course, these items went immediately to our icon “corner” (our faux mantlepiece on the east wall of our apartment). They sit in front of my paper icon of St. Herman.
That’s what I love about Orthodoxy, the whole tangible reality of the faith. The sanctity of the spirit passes to the body and to those objects associated with the sanctified spirit. Oil in a vigil lamp burning at the grave site of the holy one itself becomes holy, itself partakes of the sanctification. A stone worn smooth by endless years of weather, against which it is just possible the kayak carrying St. Herman on his many adventures scraped is granted a foretaste of that for which it voiceless groans with all creation. The pine cone, nourished by the water drawn up from the earth which cradles the holy body of our Father Herman, drinks in that blessedness that only God gives.
And now these humble objects, otherwise overlooked and ignored, become “graced” and carry that grace to a small mantle in Chicago in a humble apartment of a small family.