Saint of the Month - Saint Tikhon of Moscow (1925), October 5
Saint Tikhon, was born Vasily Ivanovich Belavin, on December 19, 1865, in the Russian village of Toropets, near the city of Pskov. The son of a Russian Orthodox priest, Vasily Belavin took a degree at St. Petersburg Theological Academy and, after becoming a monk in 1891, took the name Tikhon in the Russian Orthodox tradition. He rose quickly in the church; after a period of teaching, he became bishop of Lublin (now in Poland) in 1897 and of Alaska in 1898. He moved to New York City as bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America. Bishop Tikhon skillfully adapted the Russian Orthodox church administrative structure and liturgical worship to the local American cultural milieu. He decentralized ecclesial control by appointing co-administrators and establishing several Orthodox theological schools in North America. He also understood the necessity of promoting the use of English in church services and assisted with publishing the first Orthodox service books in the English language.
St. Tikhon assigned Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny to minister to the growing number of Arabic speaking Orthodox immigrants in North America. A native of Syria, Archimandrite Raphael had recently arrived in New York from Russia. For this mission outreach, St. Tikhon established the “Syrian Mission” of the Russian Orthodox Church in America and Archimandrite Raphael set about crisscrossing North America to seek out and minister to scattered communities of Orthodox immigrants from the Near East. One of his first stops was Boston where he encouraged the local Orthodox community and arranged to send them a priest.
Fr. George Dow Maloof of Dier-el-Ghazall, Syria [now Lebanon] was summoned to serve the Boston community. In November 1900, St. Tikhon officially received Fr. George Dow Maloof upon his arrival from Syria and assigned him as the first priest to serve in Boston. The Russian Tzar Nicholas II [later canonized as a Saint] officially sanctioned the new parish and sent a gift to the community. In December St. Tikhon officially chartered the community of St. George in Boston as a parish of the ‘Syrian Mission’ of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America.
In 1907, St. Tikhon was summoned to return to Russia and serve as bishop there. As part of his ecclesial administrative reform in America he persuaded the Russian Synod to elect Archimandrite Raphael as a bishop and continue his mission to the Arabic speaking immigrants.
In 1917, St. Tikhon was elected Patriarch of Moscow. His first action as Patriarch was to summon an All-Russian Church Council to reorganize the Orthodox Church and initiate much needed administrative and liturgical reforms. The work of the Council was halted by the events surrounding the end of WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution. When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they nationalized Orthodox church lands, took over all Orthodox schools and seminaries, withdrew all state subsidies to the church, and established exclusively civil marriages. In 1918 the Russian Orthodox church and the state were completely separated, and the church was dispossessed of its legal rights; this opened the way for many local attacks on priests and also led to the widespread looting of churches. As Patriarch, St. Tikhon wielded effective moral authority among the church membership, and he condemned the Soviet government’s actions.
For his opposition to the government’s confiscation of and destruction of church property and on charges of conspiring with foreign elements, St. Tikhon was arrested and confined without trial in 1921. He was released in June 1923 and allowed limited activity after signing an acknowledgment of the Soviet government. Tikhon’s remaining years were spent attempting to resolve conflicts fomented by political factions within the church.
As persecution continued, and thousands of believers were shot or imprisoned 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.
Quotes from St. Tikhon
"Devote all your energy to preaching the word of God and the truth of Christ, especially today, when unbelief and atheism are audaciously attacking the Church of Christ. May the God of peace and love be with all of you!"
"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."
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