After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY


Interview with Patriarch Tikhon 1923

                         WMF Report

1923 American Interview with Patriarch Tikhon

from "The Light of Russia" by Donald A. Lowrie

(From a rare book published by the YMCA in Prague in 1923. Tikhon was murdered by the Communists soon after the book was published. - Bob Atchison)

After the decision to restore the Patriarchate, the most important act of the Sobor was the election of the man to fill that office.  In the midst of the three days battle which resulted in the taking of Moscow by the Bolsheviks, the Sobor in orderly sittings carried out the routine it had defined for the election of a Patriarch.  This was a minutely detailed procedure based upon the method first employed in 1634 for the election of Joasaf and followed in the choice of all subsequent Patriarchs.  A secret ballot of all members was taken and the names of those receiving votes tabulated according to the number received.  The choice of the Patriarch must be made from the highest three in the list.  In this case they were Tikhon, Metropolitan of Moscow, Antonius, Archbishop of Kharkov, and Arsenius, Archbishop of Novgorod.  On November 5th, after a solemn service in the Church of the Savior, the three names, carefully sealed in wax rolls of equal size and weight, were placed in an urn and the eldest of the recluse-monks present drew out one name.  It proved to be that of Tikhon, whose election was forthwith proclaimed.  On November 21st (1917) occurred the solemn consecration in the Cathedral of the Assumption, and a new epoch in Russian church history had begun.

Patriarch Tikhon

The man chosen to this high office was without question one of the most widely known and loved in all the Russian Church.  He had been elected unanimously to the presidency of the Sobor.  His appointment a few months earlier to the Metropolitanate of Moscow had simply indicated his prominence in Russian church affairs.  The Patriarch is a native of Toropetz, a town near Pskov.  His theological education was acquired in the Petrograd Academy, after which he served for three years as instructor in the Pskov Theological Seminary.  In 1891 he took the monastic vow and after serving for six years as rector of the seminary in Kholm, he was consecrated Bishop of Lublin.  One year later he was appointed Bishop of North America.  In 1907 he returned to Russia as Bishop of Jaroslavl and in 1913 he became Bishop of Vilna, from which seat he was called four years later to the Metropolitanate of Moscow.

Patriarch Tikhon's nine years in America were important ones in the affairs of the Orthodox Church there.  During this period the episcopal seat was removed from San Francisco to New York.  During this period Bishop Tikhon became Archbishop Tikhon, the first American Orthodox hierarch to bear that title.  These years made a deep impression upon the future Patriarch himself, and as will later be pointed out, the knowledge of the life and religious ideals of American people he acquired there have been very influential in later events in Russia.  America has no better friend in Russia than Patriarch Tikhon and he seems especially pleased to maintain his connection with Americans and things American.  In view of his unique position and significance for all the Orthodox Church, a brief sketch of the Patriarch as the author last saw him in November 1920, will possibly here be pertinent.

An erect, well-built man in a black robe: grey hair and beard which at first glance make him appear older than his fifty-six years: a firm handclasp and kindly eyes with a decided trace of humor and ever a hint of fire in the back of them: those are your first impressions.  That, and his beaming smile.  The next thing I thought of was how little he had changed in appearance in the two years since I last visited him.  He does not look a day older, and his manner, in marked contrast to so many of my friends in Moscow, is just as calm, unhurried and fearless as though he had not passed through two years of terrible uncertainty and stress.  He had put on the white silk cowl with its diamond cross and the six - winged angel embroidered above the brow which is the head-dress of the Patriarch on all official occasions, but he had evidently just been sitting down to tea and the arrival of an old friend dispelled any formality.  So in a minute the cope and gown had disappeared and we were sitting beside the samovar in his living room.  First the Patriarch wanted to know all about the Church in America.  The only recent news he had was a cablegram which had been over a year en route.  Then I had to promise to convey his heartiest greetings and special blessing to a number of individuals and to "all American friends" in general.  He was most anxious to know if the letter he addressed to President Wilson on Thanksgiving Day, 1918, had ever reached him. In it the Patriarch had expressed his Church's participation in offering thanks for victory over the powers of evil, and congratulated President Wilson on his fine type of leadership.  The letter then went on to speak of the seemingly severe terms imposed upon the enemy, and urged Christian forbearance and the alleviation of the conditions laid down, rather than the creation of a lasting hatred which could but breed more war.  No reply was ever received, and the Patriarch was curious to know if it had ever reached the President.  Later, I tried to get a copy of this letter, but found that all extant copies had been destroyed during a political raid in the home of the Patriarch's secretary.

All those who know Patriarch Tikhon enjoy his well-developed sense of humor.  I believe it is this which has helped him retain his poise and cheerfulness through the past three years.  I asked him how he had been treated.  He told me he had been under "home arrest" for more than a year, had been permitted to go out to conduct service in other churches about once in three months, but aside from this had suffered no personal violence; this in marked contrast to many of the Church's dignitaries who had been sent to jail or even condemned to execution.  "They think", the Patriarch smilingly remarked, as he patted my hand confidentially, 'O, he's an old chap: he'll die soon..... we won't bother him'.  Wait and see", he went on, shaking his finger, schoolmaster-fashion - "I'll show them, yet".  And the roguish twinkle in his eyes, remarkably young in contrast to his grey hair, gave you confidence that when the present nightmare has cleared in Russia, her Church's leader will be found ready to take a most active part in the affairs of the new day.

But not a political part: we spoke of several churchmen who had dabbled in politics, and the Patriarch expressed his sorrow and disapproval; 'What is right and just one may openly approve, and what is evil and unrighteous one must as openly condemn", he said, "that is the Church's business. But to meddle with the affairs of secular politics is neither the course of wisdom or of duty for a priest".

"What is the most urgent need of the Orthodox Church which the Christian world outside can supply?" I asked the Patriarch.

"Send us Bibles", he replied. "Never before in history has there been such a hunger for Scripture in the Russian people. They clamor for the whole book - not only the Gospels but the Old Testament as well - and we have no Bibles to give them. Our slender stocks were exhausted long ago, and our presses have been confiscated, so that we cannot print more".  I assured him that Christians in other lands would doubtless find a way to supply this need.

It happened to be Thanksgiving Day at home, and the Patriarch remembered, and smilingly referred to its being known as "Turkey Day" in an American family he used to visit in New York.  This brought on a discussion of American and Russian holidays and this in turn led to an interesting conversation about the present religious situation in Russia.  At every step in this recital the Patriarch's clear insight into men and events and his statesman-like grasp of the affairs of the whole Church were clearly evident.  I left him with a renewed conviction of his fitness for the high post he occupies.

Russian Christians believe the choice of the Patriarch was directed by Divine Providence, and surely Patriarch Tikhon's career thus far, offers basis for the belief.  It would be difficult to imagine a man better fitted, mentally and temperamentally for the peculiarly difficult task of leading the Orthodox Church through these years of disorder and suffering in Russia.  His good-humored friendliness, combined with a kindly firmness have become proverbial in the Russian Church.  This is even more true of what Russians call his "accessibility".  It is common belief that anyone, be he bishop or priest or the most obscure layman, who has real need of his advice or decision, may get to see the Patriarch.

I recall a small incident which gives point to this statement.  One day in 1918, late in the afternoon I called at the Patriarch's house, by appointment, for in those troubled months the Patriarch was so busy and his presence so much in demand that we used to wonder when he found time for sleep.  And as I passed through the hall I noticed a woman in a peasant's dress, sobbing in a corner.  In response to my question she poured out a long story of how some canonicaI difficulty in the marriage of her daughter could only be solved by, the personal decision of the Patriarch.  "I've been here since early morning", she said, wiping her eyes, "without eating or drinking, and now they say the Patriarch is home from the Sobor but he is too busy to see me".  The tall servant in the hall, who by the way was also in America with Patriarch Tikhon, told me in English that he felt the Patriarch was too busy with matters of national importance to be troubled with one woman's private request.  Knowing the Patriarch as I did, I ventured to tell him of the petitioner in the hall, and as I left he asked to see her.  In some Russian village today there is a peasant family who think Russia's Patriarch is the kindest man who ever lived.

The 2nd part of this article is not included on this blog.  It is just unedifying ignorant editorializing by the non-Orthodox author and is not part of the interview.. -jh

About St. Tikhon's feast day:
Typiconman explains:

As you mentioned, St.Tikhon reposed on the feast of the Annunciation, 25 March 1925 (o.s.).  The date of repose often becomes a saint’s commemoration date; but this is not always the case for any number of reasons.  In the case of St. Tikhon, his commemoration could not be held on 25 March because of the great feast of the Annunciation on that.  In theory, it would be possible to celebrate St. Tikhon’s commemoration together with the Annunciation, such as happens when the feast of St. John the Theologian falls on the Ascension.  But the Annunciation almost always falls during Great Lent, which makes any such combination problematic because of liturgical material that must be added from the Triodion, which makes the service one of the most complicated in the church year.  Furthermore, 25 March often falls during Holy Week when saints may not be commemorated.

So it is somewhat understandable why it was decided to settle on some other day for Patriarch Tikhon’s commemoration.  An additional advantage of a commemoration at some other time of the year is that such allows for a fuller celebration dedicated to him alone, without being joined with some other commemoration.

The date of 5 November was the date of Patriarch Tikhon's election as Patriarch of Moscow in 1917.  This date was apparently chosen for Patriarch Tikhon’s commemoration because the restoration of the patriarchate on that date has been seen as a very significant historical event in the life of the Russian Church.

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