The year was 1970, when the Alaskan missionary monk Saint Herman became the first glorified saint of the Orthodox Church. Joining the ranks of tens of thousands of saints and martyrs throughout the ages, the name of this holy hermit (who reposed in 1750) Was entered on the universal calendar of the Church, beginning what was to become a growing list of God's holy ones who shone forth on the North American continent.
Over the centuries, many saints have gained symbols which have become associated with their life or martyrdom. The Apostle Peter is known for his testimony of Christ - the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven - while the Four Evangelists are recognized by the symbols which identify them in the Book of Revelation: an eagle, a man, a lion, and a bull.
Still other saints have had their symbols emblazoned on banners and flags. Perhaps the best known is the white saltire cross on the sky blue background, the emblem of Saint Andrew, and flag of Scotland (a symbol also used among the Slavic people, whom he also converted to Christ). Saints George and Patrick likewise have well-known banners, while saints such as Michael the Archangel, David of Wales, and the Mother of God have less widely-used flags, often associated with a particular people or nation with whom they are connected.
Such was the noble tradition which inspired research into a fitting flag for North America's first holy one several years ago. Based on the red cross of Saint George, the flag of Saint Herman bears a black cross, recalling the heavy iron cross the Alaskan hermit wore chained under his clothing (a holy relic which is still preserved today in the Alaskan church that houses his relics).
The black cross is emblazoned on a white field, not so much to recall the designs of similar banners such as St. George's Cross and St. Patrick's Cross, but to commemorate the snow-covered land of Alaska, in whose soil Saint Herman firmly planted the Holy Cross, as we hear in the Troparion hymn used on the feast day of the saint.
After years of design work and vetting, the flag was formally presented to Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America at this year's Canadian Archdiocesan Council, by vexillologist and designer Archpriest Geoffrey Korz, where attendees received their own smaller versions of the flag to take home with them.