Vasily Ivanovich Belavin, the future Saint Tikhon, was born on January 19, 1865 into the family of Ioann Belavin, a rural priest of the Toropetz district of the Pskov diocese. His childhood and adolescence were spent in the village in direct contact with peasants and their labor. 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. The modest seminarian was tender and affectionate by nature. He was fair-haired and tall of stature. 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.
In 1888, at the age of 23, he graduated from the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy as a layman. He then returned to the Pskov Seminary and became an instructor of Moral and Dogmatic Theology. In 1891, at the age of 26, he took monastic vows and was given the name Tikhon in honor of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. Tikhon was consecrated Bishop of Lublin on October 19, 1897. On September 14, 1898, Bishop Tikhon was made Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska. As head of the Russian Orthodox Church in America he reorganized the diocese and changed its name from "Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska" to "Diocese of the Aleutians and North America" in 1900. While living in the United States Archbishop Tikhon was made a citizen of the United States.
As Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, and later (after 1903) Archbishop of the Aleutian Islands and North America, Tikhon encouraged the publication of Orthodox writings in English, including a translation of the Russian Orthodox liturgy. He himself wrote a catechism based on the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
In 1900, the Rt Revd Charles Grafton, Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac (in The Episcopal Church), invited Bishop Tikhon to the consecration of the Revd Dr RH Weller as Bishop Coadjutor of Fond du Lac. One writer states that it was Bishop Grafton’s intention that Bishop Tikhon should join in the laying on of hands as a co-consecrator, but “owing to the strong opposition of one of the assisting bishops”, this did not occur. Bishop Tikhon remained a close friend of Bishop Grafton, and through the latter’s influence, Tikhon was made an honorary doctor of theology by Nashotah House.
A Eucharistic liturgy known as the Liturgy of St Tikhon, based on the 1892 Holy Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer (USA) with extensive amendments to conform to Orthodox worship, is used by some Western Rite Orthodox parishes. Tikhon is not known formally to have approved this rite that bears his name, though the Holy Synod in Moscow, to whom he passed on a request from Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians during his North American episcopate, granted the possibility of a Western Rite based on the Anglican liturgy with extensive changes to conform to Orthodox praxis.
In 1907, he returned to Russia, and was appointed Bishop of Yaroslavl. St. Tikhon was transferred to Vilnius, Lithuania on December 22, 1913. On June 21, 1917, he was elected the ruling bishop of Moscow by the Diocesan Congress of clergy and laity. On August 15, 1917, Archbishop Tikhon was raised to the dignity of Metropolitan of Moscow. On November 5 of the same year, after an election as one of the three candidates for the reinstated Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev announced that Metropolitan Tikhon had been selected for the position after a drawing of lots as the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
All who met Saint Tikhon were surprised by his accessibility, simplicity and modesty. His gentle disposition did not prevent him from showing firmness in Church matters, however, particularly when he had to defend the Church from her enemies. He bore a very heavy cross. He had to administer and direct the Church amidst wholesale church disorganization, without auxiliary administrative bodies, in conditions of internal schisms and upheavals by various adherents of the Living Church, renovationists, and autocephalists.
The situation was complicated by external circumstances: the change of the political system, by the accession to power of the godless regime, by hunger, and civil war. This was a time when Church property was being confiscated, when clergy were subjected to court trials and persecutions, and Christ's Church endured repression. News of this came to the Patriarch from all ends of Russia. His exceptionally high moral and religious authority helped him to unite the scattered and enfeebled flock. At a crucial time for the church, his unblemished name was a bright beacon pointing the way to the truth of Orthodoxy. In his messages, he called on people to fulfill the commandments of Christ, and to attain spiritual rebirth through repentance. His irreproachable life was an example to all.
Due to his resistance to the State policy of confiscating Church property during the famine of 1921-22 he was placed under arrest, but due to English political pressure, was not brought to trial. During his imprisonment the State-supported schismatic “Living Church” was set up, which called a council in 1923 to depose him and gained many adherents. In the same year Tikhon signed a declaration professing loyalty to the Soviet government, which gained him less intolerable conditions, and he was allowed to live in the Donskoy monastery at Moscow (where he had been imprisoned) and to officiate in the churches of the capital.
Owing to his personal influence many schismatics returned to the Patriarchal Church, and his death was the occasion of great popular demonstrations of veneration and affection. Tikhon was canonized in 1989, and his relics were discovered in Donskoy Monastery after his canonization. His feast day is celebrated on April 7.
Propers for Tikhon of Moscow - Confessor, Monastic, Bishop, Patriarch of Moscow and Theologian
Almighty God, who gave to thy servant Tikhon boldness to confess the Name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to suffer for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Epistle - Acts 1:1-9.
THE former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 25:31-40.
WHEN the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me. drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
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