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This past Sunday, I shared with the congregation that Fr. Matthew of St. Nino’s Russian Orthodox Church presented our church with an icon of St. Edward the Martyr and King of England in thanks for us allowing them to meet here on the last Friday of the month; and it just so happens that this coming Sunday is the feast day of one of the most significant Russian Saints to have been active in the Russian Orthodox Church in America: St. Tikhon the Patriarch of Moscow, and Enlightener of North America. In light of our relationship with St. Nino’s, it seems only right that we should know more about them.
Tikhon was born Vasily Ivanovich Belavin on January 19, 1865 in far northwest Russia. He was the son of a priest and grew up as a well loved child, which carried on into his seminary years where he was known by the nickname of ‘bishop’ and ‘patriarch.’ I doubt his classmates knew how prophetic those names actually were, but on November 5, 1917, Tikhon became the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, which included the church in the United States. Regardless of the high position he held, he was seen as very humble, simple and modest. Perhaps it was these traits that assisted him in navigating the times, for this was also the time of the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Communist and Soviet Union.
Speaking of these days, Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiev said, “There are firm grounds for speaking about the universal significance of Patriarch Tikhon’s heroic labor. The twentieth century is one of the most difficult epochs in human history, when materialism, atheism, and communism spread all over the entire globe, like a plague; when revolutions and antichristian persecutions started happening everywhere. Science claimed that Christ was a legend, a myth, that He never existed. And during this very time a giant of the Christian faith arises! A true Christian, who manifests Christian sanctity on the Patriarchal throne! A flame of confessing faith stood on a candle stand seen by the whole world, and glorified our Heavenly Father.
“Patriarch Tikhon is the image of an Orthodox saint, who stood alone against the hurricane of bloody evil: revolution, civil war, mass violence, executions, and murders. They threatened to kill him also, and sent assassins on several occasions. He did not run away from death.” (Source)
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Today we give thanks for the witness of Tikhon, who in the midst of the chaos, when tens of thousands of believer were being executed, stood as a symbol of that bright burning Light of Christ and through his witness and faith, gave others the strength they needed in order to stand firm.