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Vol. 3 No. 3 - Dormition 2008

Northern Nomenclature:
Victoria, St. Elias Day


The city of Victoria, British Columbia, like the reign of the queen for whom it was named, share a history that encompasses diverse chapters of our national history.

Until the nineteenth century, the area around Victoria was inhabited almost exclusively by the Coast Salish nations, who were witnesses to the first explorations of the Spanish, and the British under Captain James Cook in 1776, the year of the American Revolution. Within two decades, Spanish sailors visited the harbour, and by the mid-nineteenth century, a trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company had been established.

It was this outpost which would have very likely been one of the stopping points for Saint Peter the Aleut on his mercantile trips down the Pacific Coast between Alaska and northern California, where he was martyred by Spanish conquistadors. By the time of the Gold Rush in 1858, Victoria's size exploded, providing the hub for later growth, and the infrastructure for the Pacific coast's base of Canada's navy.

The city of Victoria was named at the height of the British Empire for Queen Victoria. The city was proposed as a capital for the newly established Dominion of Canada, but the strategy was rejected by the sovereign as logistically unworkable, and the second choice city of Ottawa was established as the capital.

The proper name "Victoria" comes from the Latin root for "victory", which like many Latin words in recorded history is often found in a military context. For the Christian reader who must look for a higher victory, for a higher Sovereign and Victor, the association with the victory of the Cross of Christ over Death at His Resurrection is an inevitable association for this word.


This summertime feast day falls in the midst of Canadian vacation season (July 20 / August 2), and has thus suffered from a lack of observance in some places.

Yet as the feast of the prophet who was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot, no better timing could be given for this celebration of the patron saint of vehicles. While the feast days of some other patron saints of travel fall in the cold weather months (such as Saint Nicholas or Saint Innocent of Alaska), the feast of Saint Elias (also known as the Prophet Elijah) is celebrated at a time of year ideal for the blessing of vehicles, in the warm Canadian summer.

In some areas, this day or the closest Sunday to it marks the occasion for a procession from the church after the Divine Liturgy, to the assembled vehicles in the parish parking lot or along the roadside. Like the Theophany house blessings in January, the blessing of vehicles on the feast of Saint Elias may be annually observed in parish communities.

It is worth noting that the Prophet Elias is one of only two Old Testament figures (along with Enoch) who, according to the teaching of the Fathers, did not see death. After completing his earthly ministry, Saint Elias was taken up to heaven, alive in the midst of fire, befitting the patron of those who would travel the great expanse of Canada's highways in safety, both in body and soul.

Father Geoffrey Korz, (Dormition, 2008)

© All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America, 2008.