Feast of St. Tikhon of Moscow (April 7)   Leave a comment

St. Tikhon of Moscow

Above:  St. Tikhon of Moscow

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT TIKHON OF MOSCOW (JANUARY 19, 1865-APRIL 7, 1925)

Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow

Also known as Vasily Ivanovich Belavin

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May God teach every one of us to strive for His truth, and for the good of the Holy Church, rather than something for our own sake.

–St. Tikhon of Moscow

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From the calendars of saints of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church in America, and The Episcopal Church St. Tikhon of Moscow, whom the website of the Orthodox Church in America describes as “Patriarch and Confessor of Moscow” and “Enlightener of North America,” comes to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

St. Tikhon’s life began in the Russian Empire and ended in the Soviet Union.  Vasily Ivanovich Belavin entered the world at Klin, Toropets District, Pskov Province, Russia, on January 19, 1865.  His father was a Russian Orthodox priest.  Our saint grew up around peasants.  From an early age he learned humility and kindness, characteristics he exhibited throughout his life.  From 1878 to 1883 he studied at Pskov Theological Seminary, where he was an excellent student.  Belavin graduated from St. Petersburg Theological Academy in 1888 then returned to Pskov Theological Seminary to teach moral and dogmatic theology.  He was already living somewhat like a monk, only without vows, so it was natural that the 26-year-old Belavin took monastic vows in 1891.  He became Tikhon, after St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783), Bishop of Voronezh.

Our saint’s career progressed rapidly after that.  In 1892 he transferred to Kholm Theological Seminary and became an archimandrite, a senior priest one level below bishop.  St. Tikhon became a bishop on October 19, 1897, officially serving as the Bishop of Lublin but really functioning as the Vicar Bishop of Kholm.  From 1898 to 1907 our saint served in the United States, first as the Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska.  He renamed the see to the Diocese of the Aleutians in 1900.  That year his presence at the consecration of Reginald Heber Weller as the Episcopal Bishop of Fond du Lac contributed to a controversy and a scandal in The Episcopal Church when many Evangelical Episcopalians found the photograph of Episcopal, Orthodox, and Old Catholic bishops posing in copes and mitres disturbing.  The “Fond du Lac Circus” upset many people for a long time.  St. Tikhon reorganized his diocese, founded churches, and functioned as a kind chief pastor, and won the affection and respect of his flock.  The diocese became an archdiocese in 1905, so he became the Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America.  Among our saint’s acts as archbishop was granting permission for the founding of the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Waymart, Pennsylvania, in 1905.

Our saint returned to Russia in 1907.  There he remained.  From 1907 he served as the Bishop of Yaroslavl.  St. Tikhon transferred to Vilnius in 1913.  There he did much to help the poor of that city during World War I, a conflict which proved to be devastating domestically in Russia.  He was briefly (August 15-November 5, 1917) the Metropolitan of Moscow before becoming the Patriarch.  As the Patriarch of Moscow St. Tikhon had to contend with schismatics on one side and Bolsheviks on the other.  He was glad to welcome former schismatics back into the fold, which he did, but the Soviet government was a greater problem.  It confiscated much church property.  When St. Tikhon approved the sale of certain church property to finance relief efforts for famine victims during the Russian Civil War, such confiscations hampered the humanitarian efforts.  His criticisms of the Soviet government led to his house arrest at a monastery for just over a year (1923-1924).  Under pressure our saint denied being an enemy of the Soviet government.  That statement aroused much opposition to him within the Church.

St. Tikhon died at Moscow on April 7, 1925, two days after celebrating his last Divine Liturgy.  He was 60 years old.  As he died our saint crossed himself and said,

Glory be Thee, O Lord, glory be to Thee.

He did this two complete times and died during the third time.

The Russian Orthodox Church canonized him in 1989.

A recurring theme I noticed in the life of St. Tikhon of Moscow was that many people criticized him harshly and made life difficult for him.  For example, he posed for a photograph wearing his episcopal garb at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and many Evangelical Episcopalians condemned him.  He had done nothing wrong, though.  Many Russian schismatics lambasted St. Tikhon, but he welcomed many of them back into the fold.  Our saint defended the church from the Bolsheviks and sought to feed starving people, but found himself a prisoner for speaking out.  He, in a difficult situation, sought to preserve the Church, but his way of doing so outraged many churchmen.  St. Tikhon was a kind soul and a good man–a better and kinder person than many of his critics, I suppose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MACRINA THE ELDER, BASIL THE ELDER, EMILA, NAUCRATIUS, AND PETER OF SEBASTE, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS OVER THREE CENTURIES

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Holy God, holy and mighty, who has called us together into one communion and fellowship:

Open our eyes, we pray, as you opened the eyes of your servant Tikhon,

that we may see the faithfulness of others as we strive to be steadfast

in the faith delivered to us, that the world may see and know you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,

be glory and praise to the ages of ages.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:10-14

Psalm 72:1-8

2 Peter 1:3-11

Matthew 5:3-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 313

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