Our father among the saints Tikhon of Moscow (1865–1925), Enlightener of North America, was Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (1917–1925).
While in America, he established his cathedral in New York City, and presided over a vast archdiocese, encouraging and authorizing many publications in the English language. Among these, he encouraged the translation of the Eastern liturgy into English by Isabel Florence Hapgood, and he wrote an extensive catechism based on the Nicene Creed and the Our Father. His feast day is celebrated on April 7 by New Calendar churches, on March 25 by Old Calendar churches; his glorification is celebrated on September 26, and he is also commemorated on the feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, celebrated on the Sunday nearest to January 25, which was the date of the martyrdom of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the first Bishop of the new martyrs.
St. Tikhon was born on January 19, 1865. His father was Ioann Belavin, a rural priest of the Toropetz district of the Pskov diocese. “From his early years he displayed a particular religious disposition, love for the Church as well as rare meekness and humility. … From 1878 to 1883, Vasily studied at the Pskov Theological Seminary. … His fellow students liked and respected him for his piety, brilliant progress in studies, and constant readiness to help comrades, who often turned to him for explanations of lessons, especially for help in drawing up and correcting numerous compositions. Vasily was called ‘bishop’ and ‘patriarch’ by his classmates.”
“Following graduation from the Pskov Seminary and St Petersburg Theological Academy, he becomes an instructor first at Pskov Seminary (1888-91), then Kholm Seminary (1891-97), where he quickly became Rector. Just prior to his transfer to Kholm he was tonsured a monk with the name Tikhon and ordained.”
One of the first Orthodox bishops to do major work in North America, St. Tikhon went on to establish the “Diocese of the Aleutians and North America” after converting many people on the continent. Deemed an honorary citizen of the United States, he consecrated Orthodox Churches in America during the early 20th Century. The saint was also the primary founder of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery (South Canaan, Pennsylvania), naming it for his heavenly patron, St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.
After returning to Russia in 1907, he continued to win the affection of thousands with his humble piety and loving affection. During World War I, he charitably aided displaced citizens, who flocked to him. He was also honored on November 5, 1917 by being elected Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. St. Tikhon had to overcome much disunity within the Church.
St. Tikhon of MoscowWhen the ungodly Bolshevik regime took control of the country, Church property was confiscated and the Russian Orthodox Church had to endure much repression. St. Tikhon openly condemned the killings of Czar’s family in 1918 and protested against violent attacks by the Bolsheviks on the Church. At this time, he called Russian Orthodox Christians to unite and strengthen their practices. To avoid further persecution, he issued a message that clergy were not to make any political statements.
From 1922 to 1923, Patriarch Tikhon was imprisoned in Donskoy Monastery after he openly opposed the government’s decree of being able to confiscate Church property. Thousands of Russian believers were shot. Upon being released, he assured the regime of his loyalty in an apparent attempt to relieve the harsh pressures on the Church. Despite his declaration of loyalty, he continued to enjoy the trust of the Orthodox community in Russia.
As persecution continued, he began to feel overwhelmed, and his strength and health declined. On Sunday April 5, 1925 he served his last Liturgy. He died giving the Sign of the Cross, saying, “Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee.” He only crossed himself two times, dying before he could complete the third. After his death, he was considered a martyr for the faith.
In 1989, Patriarch Tikhon was glorified by the Church of Russia. This process is generally considered an example of the thaw in Church-Soviet relations in the Glasnost era.