Posts tagged Saints
Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine and Isabel Florence Hapgood were the two people most responsible for the spread of English in early 20th century American Orthodoxy. Hapgood, a lifelong Episcopalian, was a renowned translator, honored by the Tsar, and she is still remembered today for her landmark 1906 English translation of the Orthodox Service Book. Less than a year earlier, in November 1905, Irvine, a defrocked Episcopal priest, was received into Orthodoxy and ordained by St. Tikhon. Irvine made it his life’s work to promote the use of English in American Orthodox parishes.
Yet despite their common advocacy English-language Orthodoxy, Irvine and Hapgood were like oil and water. Hapgood’s feelings towards Irvine are not well documented, but Irvine made his disdain for Hapgood clear, both in public and in private. In a 1915 letter published in the official magazine of the Russian Archdiocese (and reprinted on this site), Hapgood publicly begged the Archbishop to invest in a first-rate show choir, arguing that a great choir is “immensely more important” than “twenty little new parishes.” Irvine’s response was swift and strong, lambasting Hapgood for her “musical heresy.” Two years later, in a letter to Archbishop Evdokim (and preserved in the OCA archives), Irvine called her “that vixen Miss Hapgood,” and said that she had “damned the Church for years.”
It appears that the hostility between Irvine and Hapgood dates at least to the time of Irvine’s conversion to Orthodoxy, in late 1905. Not long ago, I happened to read Stuart H. Hoke’s outstanding paper, “A Generally Obscure Calling: A Character Sketch of Isabel Florence Hapgood” (St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 45:1, 2001). This is, by far, the most complete and well-researched biography of Hapgood I have ever seen. Hoke points out that, in his 1906 book A Letter on the Anglican Church’s Claims, Irvine committed a “major slight” against Hapgood, erroneously identifying Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky as the person chiefly responsible for Hapgood’s brand-new English Service Book. Irvine wrote that the book had been “under the watchful eye of the Very Rev. A.A. Hotovitzky and its real merits as a valuable Liturgical work as well as a witness in the English language to ‘the faith once for all delivered unto the Saints’ must be ascribed to his painstaking and interest, both as a Liturgical Scholar and Theologian.”
This was all sorts of wrong, and Hotovitzky immediately moved to correct the problem. In a letter to The Living Church (a major Episcopalian periodical), published on December 15, 1906, St. Alexander wrote,
Such an assertion, which attaches my name to the publication, and imputes to me qualities and services to which I have made no claim in connection with that publication, unhappily and unjustly omits the name of the real author of the work, to whom, incontestably, all its merits, all praises and gratitude should be attributed. The Service Book was compiled by Miss Isabel F. Hapgood, on her own initiative. To her belongs the original idea of this work; hers are the plan and execution of it, which have required arduous labor and expenditure of strength for the space of several years, as she was compelled to study our Liturgical books, and the Church Slavonic and Greek languages, and so forth. Any one who has the slightest conception of the complicated structure of the Orthodox religious services, in their entire extent, will make no mistake if he applies to this labor the epithet “gigantic,” both as to its design and its importance; and the merits of Miss Hapgood’s liturgical English in this work are confirmed by learned ecclesiastical authorities of the Episcopal Church.
Further on, Hotovitzky instructed Irvine to insert a copy of this letter into his book:
In comparison with this enormous mass of labor — in truth a most precious and unselfish gift from Miss Hapgood to our Church — my share in it, (as an orthodox priest, who has rendered, so far as occasion required, only what aid was indispensable,) is merely of secondary importance; and, especially when her name is omitted, does not deserve to be mentioned. And therefore, being profoundly distressed that this statement, so unfortunately phraseed [sic], has found a place in your book, I most earnestly ask you to place the matter in its true and complete light by inserting my letter in the text of your book, so that no reader would be misled by that paragraph.
Hoke writes that Irvine obeyed Hotovitzky’s order, and I’m sure that did, but I’ve seen two copies of the book, and neither have such an insert.
Stuart Hoke refers to A Letter on the Anglican Church’s Claims as “Irvine’s spurious book.” This is way off base; Irvine’s book is a perfectly worthwhile piece of work. The “letter” referred to in the title was originally written by Irvine to St. Tikhon, explaining the ecclesiastical position of the Church of England. In addition to the letter, Irvine pulled together articles from prominent Episcopalian scholars and ecclesiastics, each one explaining a different aspect of Anglicanism. While Irvine’s statement about the Service Book was indeed wrong, it doesn’t mean that his whole book is “spurious.”
While all this provides helpful background on the Irvine-Hapgood dynamics, what is most interesting is the insight it provides into the relationship between Irvine and Hotovitzky. You may recall that Hotovitzky was actually Irvine’s priestly sponsor when he was ordained in November 1905. In fact, Hotovitzky had to defend Irvine’s ordination in the face of criticisms from, among others, The Living Church. A year later, though, Hotovitzky wrote to the same Living Church journal, strongly critiquing Irvine and instead defending the Episcopalian Hapgood. While both were important and admirable figures, Irvine and Hotovitzky were polar opposites in many ways — Hotovitzky more reserved and politically-savvy, Irvine a bull in a china shop. Hotovitzky takes a rather standoffish tone in his letter announcing Irvine of Irvine’s transfer from the Russian Mission to the Syrian Mission. It may very well be Hotovitzky did not really care for Irvine, and that some of that distaste originated in Irvine’s “slight” of Hapgood in 1906.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Editor’s note: We first published this article nearly a year ago, but today is St. Herman’s feast day on the New Calendar, and it seemed appropriate to reprint this early Life. The author, Vera Vladimirovna Johnston, was born in the Russian Empire, married an Englishman, and eventually moved to New York. Her own story is extremely fascinating, and we discussed it in some detail in August. This article originally appeared under the title “Herman — Russian Missionary to America,” in a publication called The Constructive Quarterly 7:1 (March 1919). That is, it was written for an audience of literate Christians of various denominations, rather than specifically for Orthodox readers. I have not edited the text at all; any misspellings are in the original.
A Russian missionary to America! Yes, indeed, a servant of God, lowly and simple of heart, who attained to such perfection of spirit that in our day and generation there are many in Alaska and throughout the Orthodox parishes in the United States who think that Herman, the humble monk, should be and will be canonized—a saint of the Church.
In the second half of the eighteenth century the northern boundaries of Russia came so close to America that Russian pioneers reached the Aleutian Islands. Towards the end of the reign of the great Catherine, when Gabriel was Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, it was arranged that the light of Christ should be brought to the inhabitants of these inhospitable islands, which were inaccessible part of the year. Ten recluses of the Valaam Monastery were chosen and in 1794 started for far-off America.
The letters written home to the Prior of Valaam by some of the members of the mission were full of quaint descriptions and observations of the wonders met with in Siberia and in the cold regions of the Pacific Ocean: sea monsters, and the not less monstrous aboriginal Red men, who fought the Russian sailors by night, with queerly carved and painted masks of animals on their heads. Some of these letters are well worth reading after the lapse of 125 years.
However, the mission landed at last, and the success of these preachers of the Gospel among the new sons of the Russian Empire was great. Many thousands became Orthodox Christians, the word taking such deep root in their hearts that time and vicissitudes have done little to sap its vitality even to this day; a school was founded, a church was built, round which were grouped the dwellings of the new converts and their spiritual fathers. Yet the general success of the mission did not continue very long. After five years the Archimandrite Joasaph, head of the mission, who about this time became a bishop, was drowned off the coast of Alaska with other members of the mission; the hieromonk Juvenalius “won the crown of martyrs,” having been killed by the arrows of the natives; and one after another the missionaries disappeared, until only Herman was left.
The Yelovoi Ostrov—Spruce Island—was Herman’s dwelling place. It faces Kadiak, where stood the original church and mission house, and is separated from it by a channel a mile and a half wide, which is so rough at times that Yelovoi becomes entirely inaccessible. The island is thickly covered with fir trees, and there is a swift stream of fresh water on it, so that one is never out of hearing of the murmur of the stream and the noise of rushing tumbling breakers on the stony beach. And it was in this sylvan and watery solitude that the Russian monk worked in America.
Retiring into this wilderness, Herman first of all dug with his own hands a cave, in which he lived until a wooden cell was built for him; but the cave he preserved in good condition during all the forty years he stayed on Yelovoi, retiring there for prayer at times, and destining it for the grave in which his frail old body should find rest at last. Later a small wooden chapel was built next to his cell and a bigger one for the school children.
For more than forty years Herman worked incessantly. He was the first to introduce various European vegetables into these regions. When he was not praying or teaching, he was digging, planting, weeding, watering; and the wild little island produced vegetables on quite a large scale—good potatoes and cabbage. He was an expert at finding edible fungus crops in the thickets beneath the trees; and he pickled great quantities of mushrooms, obtaining salt from the seawater. He carried to his vegetable beds fertilizing seaweed in such a huge basket that it was not easy to lift it even when empty; yet at times the frail old monk transported several of these basketfuls daily, though the distance to the seashore was quite considerable. The endurance and vigour of his emaciated body were incredible, his contemporaries say; for instance, one snowy winter’s night, young Jerassimos, one of his disciples, by chance saw Apa (Grandfather) Herman walking barefooted in the woods, carrying with unbent shoulders a tree so big that Jerassimos said not even four strong men could have borne it. And all this was done to supply food, fuel, clothing, and even school books, for the many Aleutian children of whom he took care. And as if all this was not enough, whenever sufficient sugar and flour could be obtained, Herman made cookies and little cakes for the children, who adored him.
His own food consisted only of a very small piece of fish or a little boiled vegetable. He wore the same light clothes summer and winter. He slept on a wooden bench covered with a doe’s skin, which as years went on had no hair left on it at all, becoming simply a thin piece of leather. Two bricks, carefully concealed from visitors, were his pillow; and instead of a blanket he used a piece of board, which still covers his body in the cave which is his grave. But such as it was, Apa Herman loved his wilderness home. He was a frequent visitor of the Russian officials on the shore, but he always returned home for the night, even if it was very dark, or foggy, and if the sea rolled heavy waves. On the rare occasions when it was necessary to stay away for the night, and his hosts put him in a comfortable bedroom, in the morning it would be discovered that the bed had not been touched, and indiscreet people would have seen him at all hours of the night kneeling in prayer.
Even in his youth he had never looked very robust, for he was sparely built, but not tall; yet in addition to all the physical and moral self-imposed fatigue, he always wore heavy chains on his body, thus inflicting on himself further mortification of the flesh. His nearest disciple in the Aleutian Island, whose name was Ignatius Aligyaga, was often heard in later times to say: “Yes, Apa led a hard life, and no one could follow him.”
Yet, for all the incessant labour of his outward life, his inner life was the more intense of the two, and far the more important in his own eyes. Bishop Peter, who knew Herman well, wrote that his principal concern was “the exercise of spiritual achievements, in the isolation of his cell, where no one could see him.” And this statement is further confirmed by what Herman himself said when somebody asked him whether he did not feel dull, being so much alone in the woods. “No, I am not alone. God is there as He is everywhere. Holy angels are there. Then how can I feel dull? With whom is it better and pleasanter to converse, with men or with angels?”
Herman’s attitude towards the aboriginal inhabitants of Alaska and the way in which he understood Russia’s relation to them is well worth attention. He wrote to the Governor of the colony: “The Lord gave this land to our beloved mother country like a new-born babe, who has not as yet any faculty to acquire knowledge, nor the sense to do so; because of its lack of strength and its infancy, it not only needs protection, but even support; but this it has as yet no ability to ask of anyone. And as Providence has made the prosperity of this people to depend, until some unknown date, on the Russian authorities … I, the humble servant of the people of this land, and their nurse, standing before you on behalf of all, do implore you, writing with tears of blood. Be our father and our benefactor. It is needless to say we have no eloquence. But with our inarticulate infant tongues we say to you: ‘Wipe the tears of defenceless orphans, cool the hearts which are melting in the fire of sorrow, help us to understand what joy is.’ “
Herman’s self-abnegation in his devotion to the Aleutian people was complete. A ship from the United States brought to Sitka a very contagious fatal disease, which spread from there to Kadiak. The plague ran its deadly course in three days. There were no doctors and no drugs on the island. The mortality was such that dead bodies lay unburied for days. Herman wrote of it in the following words: “I can imagine nothing more sad or more horrible than the sight I beheld on visiting an Aleutian kajem. It is a big barn or barrack with bunks, in which the Aleutians live with their families. It held about one hundred people. Some were dead and were cold already, but lay side by side with the living; some were in their last agony; their moaning and screaming were enough to rend one’s soul with pity. … I saw mothers over whose dead bodies crawled little hungry babies.”
And throughout this terrible epidemic, which lasted for a whole month, gradually declining, Herman never gave a thought to his own discomfort or danger. He stayed most of the time with the sick, tending them, praying with them, comforting them or preparing them to die as Christians should.
Herman’s concern for the moral growth of the Aleutians was deep. He read and explained to them the Scriptures. And their progress in singing in Church was quite remarkable. The Aleutians liked his lessons and his preaching, and flocked to his island in great numbers. His talks delighted them, and through them a miraculous influence was exercised over his unlettered listeners. Here is one instance which has reached us in his own description:
“Glory be to the holy ways of God’s compassion! His Providence, which passes understanding, has manifested to me something which I never saw before in all the twenty years I have spent in Kadiak. A little after Easter a certain young woman who can speak Russian well came to me. She did not know me before, had never seen me, but when she came and heard about the Incarnation of the Son of God, and about life eternal, she was consumed with such ardent love for Jesus Christ, that she will not leave me and has persuaded me, in spite of my preference for isolation, in spite of all the obstacles and hardships I represented to her, to receive her. And now for more than a month she has lived in the school and does not seem homesick. Wondering at this greatly, I recall the words of our Saviour, that much is revealed to babes which is hidden from the wise and the prudent.” This Aleutian woman, who was baptized Sophia, stayed on the island of Yelovoi, taking care of the school children, long after the death of the recluse.
Here is further testimony to the work of grace in the hearts of the people, made accessible to them by the simple words of Herman. This testimony comes from the Russian Governor of the colony, who was a man of high social standing at home, well acquainted with the ways and opinions of the great European world. Governor Janovsky writes: “I was thirty when I met Father Herman. I must mention at once that I was educated in the School of the Naval Corps, that I was acquainted with many sciences and had read a good deal. But unfortunately I had but a very superficial understanding of the science of all sciences, the Law of God, and that only theoretically, never applying it to life; in fact, I was a Christian in name only, in thought and deed I was an atheist. My rejection of the holiness and divinity of our religion was only the greater because I read quantities of agnostic literature. It was not long before Father Herman became aware of this. . . . To my great surprise he spoke with much force and intelligence; his arguments were so convincing that, even as I recall them now, it seems to me that no learning and no worldly wisdom could withstand him. Daily we discussed till midnight and even later the subjects of divine love, eternity, the salvation of the soul and Christian living. His delightful talk poured forth freely, unhindered.” In after life Governor Janovsky became known for his truly Christian disposition. He concludes his reminiscences as follows: “For all this I am indebted to Father Herman: he is my true benefactor.” The same official left a description of Herman’s external appearance. “I remember very vividly,” he says, “the Father’s pleasant features, luminous with grace, his pleasing smile, his gentle attractive eyes, his humble quiet disposition and kindly address. He was not tall; his face was pale and covered with innumerable fine wrinkles; his eyes sparkled with inner light . . . and his speech was never loud, but very agreeable.”
From one source and another there is a very considerable record of the life of this quiet kindly Apa of the Aleutian Islands. But perhaps the surest indication of his coming though delayed canonization is in the fact that, having died in his eighty-first year on December 13, 1837, he is still remembered by the descendants of those who were his spiritual children in the true’ sense. The healing and miracle working power of prayer at his poor grave, most of the time snowed up and inaccessible, still prevails in that little known, northernmost corner of America.
Monk Herman died fully prepared, having arranged for all the details and foretold many of the circumstances of his death. On the evening of his death some Russian Creoles and Aleutians saw a pillar of light ascending from the island of Yelovoi, brighter and more distinct than any northern lights. Some of the beholders are recorded as having said: “Father Herman has left us.” And many on Kadiak, Athognak and other islands stretching from America to Asia knelt down and prayed in their simple faith, seeking consolation in their bereavement.
Many are the records of the good deeds and the verified prophecies of this unusual Russian life spent in the service of Americans. But perhaps his own commentary on his life can best show what he really was and what were his aspirations. “The hollow desires of this life draw us away from our heavenly native land; love of these desires and habits clothes our souls as with an unclean garment; the Apostles called this the ‘outer man.’ We, in our wanderings through life, calling on God for help, ought to lift this uncleanness from ourselves, clothing ourselves with new desires and a new love of the future life, and thus judge of our drawing near to our heavenly native land or away from it. It is impossible to do this in haste, but we may follow the example of sick people who desire a glad recovery, and never give up their search for a cure. I can speak suggestively only.”
Last week, we reprinted Isabel Hapgood’s account of St. Raphael’s funeral. The Hapgood article appeared in the New York Tribune on March 8, 1915. Two days later, the paper published the following letter to the editor from Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine:
To the Editor of The Tribune.
Sir: An unfortunate mistake was made in an article written by Miss Isabel Hapgood which would make it seem to appear that the Russian Bishop and his Russian clergy did not pay the proper repsect to the office of the Syrian Bishop at the funeral. The words to which exception is taken are as follows: “The Syrian priests, in passing, kissed the dead Bishop’s hand after kissing the cross. The Russian Bishop and priests passed without saluting cross and hand.”
Indeed, the respect and episcopal honor paid to Bishop Raphael’s office and person by Bishop Alexander was the most remarkable expression of love that has ever been known in the United States to the body of a dead prelate. From the moment Bishop Alexander was notified of his brother Bishop’s death until the day after his burial in the crypt of the cathedral (which, by the bye was not built by Bishop Raphael, as Miss Hapgood, through misapprehension, also states) he and his clergy were present and gave the same attention as if the deceased Bishop was of their own nationality. The usual custom of kissing the cross and the hand of the dead Bishop was also observed.
If, from matter of respect to the Syrian clergy, who had come from great distance to the funeral, Bishop Alexander and his clergy gave way for a moment, it was altogether because of the tenderness toward thirty priests of the Syrian Bishop who crowded around the casket brokenhearted and bereaved. However, from the first visitation to the dead body until the casket lid was locked down, Bishop Alexander and his clergy paid every required honor — indeed, to such an extent that it might have appeared to outsiders that he was their own Bishop and not that of the Syrian flock.
INGRAM N.W. IRVINE.
St. Nicholas Cathedral, March 9, 1915
As regular readers of this website know, Irvine was a prominent Episcopal priest who converted to Orthodoxy and was ordained by St. Tikhon in 1905. Irvine worked closely with St. Raphael and his Syrian Mission from the beginning, and around 1909, he was actually transferred to St. Raphael’s own jurisdiction. Irvine remained there until St. Raphael’s death, after which he returned to the main Russian Mission. Irvine was a tireless promoter of the use of English in American Orthodoxy, the education of Orthodox children, and the unity of all Orthodox ethnic groups under the Russian Archdiocese.
As we have seen before (and will see again), Irvine had an antagonistic relationship with Isabel Hapgood, the Episcopalian writer and linguist who translated the Service Book into English in 1906. While the pair shared an interest in spreading the use of English in American Orthodox parishes, they differed on virtually everything else. Hapgood’s views of Irvine aren’t well recorded (or, if they are, they haven’t been discovered yet), but Irvine is on record many times as an outspoken opponent of Hapgood and nearly all that she stood for. It is therefore unsurprising that Irvine would publicly call out Hapgood on such a seemingly insignificant error in an otherwise accurate article on St. Raphael’s funeral.
Then again, perhaps it wasn’t so insignificant. It’s established that, as early as St. Raphael’s funeral itself, the Syrian priests were divided over whether they should be under Russia or Antioch (see, for instance, the 1924 court case Hanna v. Malick). We also know, from other documents, that Irvine strongly supported the unity of American Orthodoxy under Russian jurisdiction. I’m just speculating here, but it is entirely possible that Irvine read Hapgood’s error in the context of the jurisdictional uncertainty and division that was beginning to overtake the Syrian Mission in the days and weeks after St. Raphael’s death. Viewed in this light, Irvine may have felt it necessary to emphasize, very publicly, the unity between the Russians and the Syrians. The fact that it also accorded him the opportunity to criticize his longtime foe, Hapgood, would have been icing on the cake.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Editor’s note: The following article was written by Isabel Hapgood and appeared in the New York Tribune on March 8, 1915. It is the most complete surviving description of the funeral of St. Raphael, who died on February 27, 1915. Hapgood herself had known St. Raphael for nearly two decades, from the time that he first arrived in America.
The first Syro-Arabian Bishop in America was buried yesterday in a tomb beneath the Syro-Arabian Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, which forms his monument.
Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny was born in Damascus, a pure Arab. [In fact, St. Raphael's family was from Damascus, but he was born in Beirut. - Ed.] From the Patriarchal Theological School, at Khalki, he went to Russia and became so identified with the spirit of the country that he was wont to say, “In soul I am a Russian.” He went in a monastery at Kiev for six years, and then was professor of Arabic at the University of Kazan. A desire for active work brought him to America.
In Russia he was ordained, and it was under the auspices of the Holy Synod that he labored here. On several occasions the Patriarch of Antioch offered him the rank of Metropolitan in his native Syria. It is probable that had he returned he would have become Patriarch, but he felt that his work was among the 25,000 Syro-Arabians here, whom he had organized into thirty parishes.
He came to this country in 1895. His first church was on the second floor of a house in Washington Street, Manhattan. How the floor bore up under the masses of worshippers, especially when the Russian Bishop held services there on his infrequent visits from San Francisco (then the seat of the Russian diocese), I never understood. Another dispensation of Providence was required to avert a catastrophe when we adjourned to the floor above and enjoyed a genuine Arab feast, ending with Arab coffee flavored with rosewater from Syria. All the partitions and supports below had been removed to make space in the church.
Bishop Nicholas, now Archbishop of Warsaw, remarked to me on one occasion: “I know now exactly how Louis XIV felt when he had to eat in public!”
After the feast a couple of handsome young fellows (ladies’ tailors by their American profession) in Albanian costume performed the famous sword play over the oilclothed floor, upon which dressy lengths of ingrain carpet had been loosely laid, with such vigor that they literally cut the gas jets, partly smashed the fixtures and had to be separated by the umpire, who interposed with a dagger — more Providence!
One day a pistol flew from one of the swordsmen’s sashes across the room and landed at my feet — that illustrates the vigor of the proceedings. I captured it and refused to return it until the end of the session — and thereafter, instead of sitting at the side of the room, I took a safe seat by the side of the Russian Bishop.
A few years passed and Father Raphael was able to move his church to a building on Pacific Street, near Hoyt Street, which later on became a cathedral. That was in 1904. Early that year he was raised to the rank of Archimandrite, and in May of that year he was consecrated Bishop, and became the second Vicar of the Russian Archbishop.
Ordinarily three bishops are required for consecration. In this case, owing to its exigencies, only two officiated, the Most Revered Tikhon, Archbishop of Aleutia and North America, now Archbishop of Vilna, and the Right Rev. Innokentz, first Vicar, later Bishop of Yakutsk and Viluisk, and now Archbishop of Tashkent, in Turkestan. That is, I am sure, the only ocasion [sic] when a Bishop of the Orthodox Eastern Church has been consecrated in America, and a wonderful service it was.
The Russian Ambassador, not being able to come, sent his representative, who sat at the right hand of the new Bishop at the banquet which followed. As the only representative of America and the Episcopal Church, I was placed at his left hand, opposite the consecrating prelates, and was called on for a speech after the Ambassador’s representative had conveyed his formal message.
In course of time Bishop Raphael came to know many of the Episcopal clergy, and was highly respected by them. His later alienation from them is regarded as having arisen under misapprehension. By his own people he was cherished as the man to whom they owed their beneficent organizations. The Young Turk element quarrelled with him for reciting the formal prayer for the Sultan, as the ruler of Syria, in the services, and several attempts were made on his life. At times he was obliged to go about with a guard, and I met him in the Syrian restaurants dining with a guard on duty. But he lived down their enmity.
Bishop Raphael died, after an illness of three weeks, from dropsy, kidney trouble and heart disease, worn and gray as a man of seventy with his toils and sufferings.
For a week he lay in state in his cathedral, and morning and evening requiem services were held by the Right Rev. Alexander, Bishop of Alaska, assisted by Russian and Syrian clergy. A wonderful service, picturesque in setting.
Across the foot of the open coffin was draped the purple episcopal mantle, with its crimson velvet “tables of the law.” Over the face lay a sacramental veil of white and silver brocade, embroidered with a gold cross. At the head of the coffin stood pontifical candles, but no longer lighted, as during pontifical service. They were tied with black ribbons, so that their tips spread abroad, reversed and unlighted. Between them, leaning against the head of the catafalque and the coffin rose the crozier. Behind, on a folding lectern, lay a purple velvet cushion, on which were placed the orders and decorations which the Bishop had received, many from Russia. The holy doors in the centre of the ikonostasis, with its many ikoni, were closed and draped in black and gold, purple and silver. All about the walls were more ikoni, and huge floral pieces surrounded the coffin. One of the set pieces was an armchair, of white artificial flowers, with sprays of lavender flowers and surmounted by a canopy or arched gateway of palms, violet tulle and white flowers.
At the evening requiems the church was always filled. Many women waited for hours to secure front seats in the little gallery. More women thronged every step of the stairs. The Syrian priests, in passing, kissed the dead Bishop’s hand, after kissing the cross. The Russian Bishop and priests passed without saluting cross and hand.
The gospels were read night and day, instead of Psalms, as with a layman, by relays of clergy. The Syrians relieved one another at frequent intervals, and showed the finest, most varied forms of intoning.
Bishop Alexander who, by command of the Holy Synod, has charge of the vast Russian Diocese of North America until the newly appointed Archbishop shall arrive, stood at the services motionless (“like a candle” is the Russian term.)
Thursday evening, at the close of the services, a picture was taken of the dead Bishop and the circle of celebrating clergy. After the clergy had retired, representatives of all the Syrian societies, including women, made addresses from the chancel platform about the great work which Bishop Raphael had accomplished for his people in America.
Saturday morning, after the liturgy had been celebrated in Old Church Slavonic and Greek by Bishop Alexander and his clergy, and in Syrian by the Syrians, while the choir of the Russian Theological Seminary from Tenafly, N.J., sang their part in Slavonic, two requiem services were held, the first by the Metropolitan Hermanos Shehadah, of Selveskia Mount Lebanon [should be Baalbek - ed.], Syria (his black, waist-long hair concealed beneath his black cassock and cloth of silver pall) and the Syrian clergy; and the second by Bishop Alexander and a few Russian priests, the seminary choir singing. The Syrian clergy no longer kissed the dead Bishop’s right hand. That lay at rest forevermore. The raised left hand supported a large cross, and this alone was saluted.
Yesterday morning, at 10 o’clock, the liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Alexander, standing at the right of Metropolitan Hermanos, on their eagle rugs upon the dais at the head of Bishop Raphael’s coffin. As was customary, Bishop Alexander was vested on the dais in magnificent vestments of silver brocade. Metropolitan Hermanos wore gold brocade and the tall Metropolitan’s mitre of crimson velvet and gold, from whose crest rose a diamond cross. The choir of the Russian St. Nicholas Cathedral sang, except during the brief intervals when the Syrians chanted.
At a layman’s funeral the clergy wear black velvet and silver; at the funeral of a priest or bishop, no mourning is worn and the flowerlike vestments of the priests, mingling with the magnificent floral pieces, produce a very brilliant effect. The Syrian deacon wore pink brocade with a stole of blue and gold. As only 500 people were allowed by the authorities inside the cathedral, there was space for the ceremony of processions to and from the altar. At 12 o’clock the liturgy ended. At 1:30 the funeral began.
The singing was now done for the Syrians by the boys’ and girls’ choir of the Sunday school, wearing white vestments with lavender crosses, the girls, with mortarboard caps, occasionally assisting the clergy. The Russian singing was done by the clergy, assisted by the adult members of the choir. In all there were about forty priests, Russian and Syrian, who chanted, the Russians led by Archdeacon Vsevolod, of the Russian Cathedral, with his magnificent voice.
Among the hymns, which show the spirit of the service, were:
“Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of thy servant and establish him in Paradise. Where the choirs of the saints, O Lord, and of the just, shine like the stars of heaven, give rest to thy servant, who hath fallen asleep, regarding not all his transgressions.”
“Forasmuch as we all are constrained to that same dread abode, and shall hide ourselves beneath a gravestone like to this, and shall ourselves shortly turn to dust, let us implore of Christ rest for him who hath been translated hence.”
In the Eastern Church there are several orders of burial. One is for a child under seven years old, in which no mention is made of sin, because a child’s soul “is not grown,” as the Russians say, until he is seven. Another is for adult laymen; a third, for those who die in Easter week, in which there are almost no songs of mourning, but all are songs of the joy of the Resurrection; the fourth, for dead priests, has five epistles and five gospels. These were read by the Syrians and the Russians alternately, as were the many hymns, most of which were written by St. John of Damascus.
Then at last the clergy made addresses, Father Basil Kerbawy, dean of the cathedral, Father Sergius Snegyeroff and others, in praise of the Bishop. Father Kerbawy reduced the congregations to tears. Bishop Alexander made the last speech, directly addressing the dead as he stood by the coffin.
After “Memory Eternal” had been proclaimed in Syrian and in Old Church Slavonic, with the addition of the Bishop’s title and name, the procession formed. It is customary to carry the body of a Bishop around the outside of the church and to hold a brief service on each of the four sides before going to the graveyard. This constituted the funeral procession in the present case, as its route was along Pacific Street to Henry Street, thence to State Street, then to Nevins Street and back along Pacific Street to the cathedral.
The procession formed in the following order: Cronin, political leader of the district; squad of mounted police; twenty to thirty small boys in white tunics, with lilac crosses and flowers; the Cathedral committee (honorary pall-bearers); girls, singing hymns; Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society; the Homsian Fraternity; the Syro-American Political Club; members of the various Syrian diocesan parishes; the United Syrian Societies; cathedral Sunday school pupils, carrying crosses, candles and church banners; coaches with floral offerings; Archimandrite [Aftimios] Aphaish of Montreal, carrying the cushion with the late Bishop’s orders; finally, St. Joseph’s Society of Boston.
The dead prelate was borne in an open coffin by the priests, the snowflakes drifting down upon his splendid mantle of purple, crimson and white, his golden mitre, and the white brocade sacramental veil which covered his face. The body was followed by the Orthodox clergy, both Syrian and Russian; last came Bishop Alexander of Alaska. The family of the deceased, parishioners and friends followed, women joining, although it is not the custom to do so abroad.
Directly beneath the altar the Bishop had built for himself a vault. On the return of the procession masses of the flowers were carried into the crypt, and the clergy surrounded the bronze coffin into which the mahogany casket was lowered. The Metropolitan Hermanos made the final address before the coffin was closed, and a most distressing scene of grief ensued. Not only the clergy, but many parishioners, cast earth upon the body of their beloved Bishop.
We have not discussed St. Alexis Toth much at all on SOCHA. So, I thought I’d briefly outline one aspect of his ministry that bears highlighting. St. Alexis believed that Orthodoxy could exist just fine within America. He served working class poor Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants. He also endured criticisms from leaders within the Russian Mission during his time. The Russian Mission had a love-hate relationship with the Carpatho-Rusyn converts they acquired. Fr. Benedict Turkevich, brother of Fr. Leonid Turkevich (later Metropolitan Leonty) argued that the Carpatho-Rusyn converts from Eastern Catholicism to Orthodoxy should be sent to Siberia to further the colonization efforts of the Russian Empire. Turkevich was not unusual, for the idea of sending fellow Slavs to other areas of the Empire fit the Russian Empire’s efforts at the time. Those interested in reading more on this should pursue: Willard Sunderland, “Peasant Pioneering: Russian Peasant Settlers Describe Colonization and the Eastern Frontier, 1880s-1910s,” Journal of Social History 34:4 (2001): 895-922.
Turkevich had made this suggestion in Svit, the very paper Toth himself had started. This suggestion occurred in 1911, after St. Alexis’ 1909 death, but twelve years prior to this, Toth had offered another vision. Toth claimed that one could maintain one’s cultural identity and be good American citizens as well. For Toth, there was no reason the Carpatho-Rusyn converts could not stay in America as real Americans. The purpose of the Russian Mission was not simply to act as an arm of the Russian Empire, but to spread the Orthodox faith to Eastern Catholic immigrants. Toth even titled his piece “How We Should Live in America” [Narodny Kalendar (Pittsburgh, 1899).
Although one might wish to break these concerns down along covert/cradle lines, that would do a grave injustice to what was occurring. This was an intra-Slavic fault line. Certainly, there was a religious fault line, and certainly there was a difference here as to the purpose of the Russian Mission, but we would do well to avoid being anachronistic with a fallacious contemporary categorization. The lesson that may be learned is that the Russian Mission brought with it goals and objectives from the Russian Empire and extended those into America as it encountered the Carpatho-Rusyns. St. Alexis Toth, for his part, held to a grander vision, one that allowed that one could be Orthodox and American.
[This article was written by Fr. Oliver Herbel.]