Monday, April 7, 2008

St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow

Today we also celebrate the memory of St Tikhon the Confessor, Patriarch of Moscow, who reposed on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1925. His memory should be particularly dear to Orthodox Christians in North America, given that he served as a bishop in the United States from 1898 to 1907, even becoming a United States citizen.

His sermon given in San Francisco on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1903, is worth continual rereading. An excerpt:
How speedily some of us lose the Orthodox faith in this country of many creeds and tribes! They begin their apostasy with things, which in their eyes have but little importance. They judge it is 'old fashioned' and 'not accepted amongst educated people' to observe all such customs as: praying before and after meals, or even morning and night, to wear a cross, to keep icons in their houses and to keep church holidays and fast days. They even do not stop at this, but go further: they seldom go to church and sometimes not at all, as a man has to have some rest on a Sunday ( a saloon); they do not go to confession, they dispense with church marriage and delay baptizing their children.

And in this way their ties with Orthodox faith are broken! They remember the Church on their deathbed, and some don't even do that! To excuse their apostasy they naively say: 'this is not the old country, this is America, and consequently it is impossible to observe all the demands of the Church.', as if the word of Christ is of use for the old country only and not for the whole world. As if the Orthodox faith is not the foundation of the world!

'Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel into anger.' (Is 1.4)

If you do not preserve the Orthodox faith and the commandments of God, the least you can do is not to humiliate your hearts by inventing false excuses for your sins!

If you do not honor our customs, the least you can do is not to laugh at things you do not know or understand.

If you do not accept the motherly care of the Holy Orthodox Church, the least you can do is to confess you act wrongly, that you are sinning against the Church and behave like children!

If you do, the Orthodox Church may forgive you, like a loving mother, your coldness and slights, and will receive you back into her embrace, as if you were erring children.

Holding to the Orthodox faith, as to something holy, loving it with all their hearts and prizing it above all, Orthodox people ought, moreover, to endeavor to spread it amongst people of other creeds.

Christ the Savior has said that 'neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candle stick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.' (Mt 5.15)

The light of Orthodoxy was not lit to shine only on a small number of men. The Orthodox Church is universal; it remembers the words of its Founder: 'Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature' (Lk 16.15), 'go ye therefore and teach all nations' (Mt 28.19).

We ought to share our spiritual wealth, our truth, light and joy with others, who are deprived of these blessings, but often are seeking them and thirsting for them.

For more on St Tikhon's apostolic labors in North America, see this article.

Photograph: St Tikhon as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

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