September 11, 2019

Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam

Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam (Feast Days - June 28 and September 11)

Not much is known of the life of Saints Sergius and Herman, who were the founders of Valaam Monastery in Karelia in northwestern Russia on the island of Valaam in Lake Ladoga. Especially in the 12th and 17th centuries, the monastery experienced devastation, and monastic service was interrupted for many decades. During the invasions, church monuments and monastery shrines were destroyed, and the rich monastery library and manuscript repository were burned and plundered more than once. For this reason, records of the history of the monastery are scarce, and what we know today comes mainly from 18th century sources.

Conflicting traditions place the Saints possibly as early as the 10th century or as late as the 14th. Their feast day is celebrated on June 28. They are described as Athonite monks sent by the Roman Emperor to enlighten the heathen tribes of Karelia with the light of the Christian faith. They traveled along the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks, passing the Rus' towns of Kiev, Novgorod and Staraya Ladoga. Arriving on the northern shores of Lake Ladoga, soon they moved to Valaam island, where they established a monastery and would spend the rest of their lives preaching.

According to an 18th century chronicle, the relics of Sergius and Herman were moved to safety in Novgorod in 1162 (or 1163), possibly before a major Swedish offensive against Staraya Ladoga, roughly a decade after the legendary First Swedish Crusade, to be returned in 1182 (or 1180). The date of the translation, September 11, continues to be commemorated by the Orthodox Church of Finland.

The relics of Venerable Sergius and Herman now rest in the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Valaam Monastery. Numerous miracles are performed through the faith of those who ask for the help of the Saints.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Fulfilling the Gospel of Christ and loving him alone, despising earthly cares you settled on an island. There you fought against the invisible foe, subjecting your bodies to the Spirit by fasting, vigil and prayer. Crowned with glory and now standing before the Trinity, intercede, O Fathers Sergius and Herman, that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
You left the world to follow in Christ’s footsteps, reaching Lake Neva and the island of Valaam. There you lived the angelic life, and were translated to the heavenly bridal chamber. As you stand with the angels remember the children whom you gathered, that we may joyfully cry to you: Rejoice, blessed Fathers Sergius and Herman.