On Facebook I spotted a photo of some monks with a bear. It brought to mind how often Orthodox saints are portrayed with animals, especially bears in the Russian tradition. Lions seem to be more common further south in the mediterranean and North African regions but these are just generalizations.
St Seraphim is probably best known for having a bear visit him but St Herman of Alaska also has a history with bears. It is said that when the saint died the bears left the island on ice and the birds flew away. To this day there are no bears on Spruce Island.
So here is a little slide show of Monks & Bears and one old joke that I first heard while on Spruce Island. Enjoy!
An old joke with a bear:
An atheist was walking through the woods.
“What majestic trees”!
“What powerful rivers”!
“What beautiful animals”!
He said to himself.
As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly charge towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder & saw that the bear was closing in on him.
He looked over his shoulder again, & the bear was even closer. He tripped & fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right On top of him, reaching for him with his left paw & raising his right paw to strike him. At that instant the Atheist cried out, “Oh my God!”
The bear froze.
The forest was still.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. “You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don’t exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident.” “Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer”?
The atheist looked directly into the light, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps You could make the BEAR a Christian”?
“Very Well,” said the Voice.
The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear made the sign of the Cross, brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke:
“Lord bless this food and bless the hands that made it, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!”