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080. May 1/14, 1971. Prophet Jeremiah

Dear Father Innocent,
In truth Christ is risen!

I will be honest with you and come to the point: Why “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel”? While souls are starving and perishing for want of Holy Orthodoxy, are you going to devote your time and energy to idle academic exercises?

Doubtless you are correct that at one time the accepted English form of “Germanus” was “Germain”; that was a matter of usage and not of principle, since there is no reason in the world why foreign names must come to us through the French. But language is a living thing, and the name “Germain” is virtually nonexistent in present American usage, and is, I would say, almost quaint. Even the great French saint of Auxerre is widely known in English as “Germanus,” not “Germain.” (Both names, surely, are good usage.) Why, therefore, force “Germain” on people? It has nothing to do with “correctness”; there is no “proper traditional way,” as you say, of transcribing Orthodox names into English. “Germain” is old English usage; “Herman” is at least one present American usage. Your campaign to force one usage over the other seems to us wasted energy.

When our Brotherhood of St. Herman was founded, we gave some thought to the variant versions of this name. Then and since we have seen defended (some of them with just as much certainty as you display) such variations as: German, Gherman, Guerman, Germain, Gairman, Germanus, Germanos. We preferred “Herman” for one simple reason: it has long been the accepted English usage of those who love and revere the Saint. If you went to Alaska today, you would scarcely find one person who would know who you are talking about when you mention “St. Germain”; and to call them “Metropolia proletarians” under “German influence” is quite beside the point — they are just simple village people who love St. Herman and would be bewildered to find that it’s a matter of “principle” to change his name. How many prayers the Saint has answered, how many miracles worked, when addressed as St. “Herman”! Surely therefore, the Saint himself does not consider his glory lessened by this name and spelling!

We, therefore, cannot agree that the name “Herman” is “private and peculiar”; and in fact, whatever may be the philological accident or coincidence that produced this result, the spelling “Herman” comes closest in pronunciation to the Slavonic “German” (where G is closer to English H than G). But we are not in the least interested in engaging in controversy over the issue, nor are we concerned to enforce the name “Herman” on the English speaking world. We see no good reason to change our spelling, but there are too many other important things to be doing to be upset if someone else chooses a different spelling. Uniformity on the matter would be desirable, but there are other things much more necessary and critical.

In the name of our Precious Savior, Fr. Innocent, do not make a major issue out of something so minor. The new parish in Tucson has several recent converts to Orthodoxy; you will only upset and scandalize them if you insist on waging a campaign, and using their parish to do it, for the name “Germain.” No matter how “correct,” academically speaking, you might think yourself to be, such a campaign would in fact be your own private campaign, and you would get other people to accept it chiefly so as not to offend you personally — surely a small triumph.

We have spoken with absolute frankness. Forgive us, Father, and pray for us, and be assured of our prayers, and of all respect and love in Christ our Saviour,
Seraphim, Monk

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