Posted by: anna | August 8, 2009

St. Iakov Netsvetov

The icon is by the hand of an anonymous iconographer, image taken from comeandseeicons.

No British or Celtic saints are listed for today, but there’s one from my native side of the world: St. Iakov (Jacob) Netsvetov of Atka-Island and Ikogmute, mission priest to the Yup’ik on the Yukon River (1802-1864). He was glorified in 1994, so he is quite a new saint (officially) and doesn’t tend to appear (yet) in icons of the Synaxis of All Saints of North America.

Iakov Netsvetov, a native Alaskan and Aleut Creole, was the first Orthodox priest to serve the Yup’ik of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. Just existing in Alaska is still quite a lot of hard work, and in those days entailed now-unimaginable physical hardship – that St Jacob managed not only to build and sustain parishes as a very busy and widely-travelled missionary but to provide medical care for the sick of his flock(s) and to carry out scholarship in natural history and native linguistics as well is testimony to the nearness to God of his life, work and worship. This was a very practical man, who could build with his own hands, hunt, shoot, fish, teach, doctor, translate… and was married, though sadly not for long. He remained close to his own family as well. At a particularly sad and difficult time in his life – his wife and father died within a year of each other and his house burned down – he was dissuaded from entering the monastic life, and continued his missionary work in Alaska. What a staggering example of the life lived as a sacrifice to God. It reminds me a little of Margaret Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call My Name. Here is lots more about St Jacob from the OCA. I note that the OCA has a useful Saints of the Day page, searchable by date so Old Calendar Orthodox can use it too! It doesn’t seem to include the British and Celtic saints, though.

Here is a very interesting catalogue of an exhibition drawn from the Alaskan Russian Church Archives in the Library of Congress, including some of St Iakov Netsvetov’s linguistic work. And here’s more about the Aleut culture and people. And more about Orthodoxy in Alaska. I’d love to go on pilgrimage to Alaska; I hiked the Chilkoot Trail over the Alaska-Yukon border 20 years ago (!) and Rie Munoz, who paints almost excusively scenes of life in Alaska, is one of my favourite artists. Many of her paintings include Russian Orthodox churches, and priests – little did I know what they foreshadowed when I hung posters featuring those churches on my walls
years ago !

Troparion (tone 4)

Righteous Father Jacob,
adornment of Atka and the Yukon delta,
offspring of Russian America,
flower of brotherly unity,
healer of sickness,
and terror of demons,
you offered yourself as a living sacrifice
to bring light to a searching people.
Pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved!

Holy St Jacob, pray to God for us.

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