His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, in the world Basil Ivanovich Bellavin, was born on January 19, 1865 in Toropets, Pskov province, the son of a priest, Fr. John of the Spaso-Preobrazhensky church. His mother was called Anna. Once his father dreamed that he spoke with his dead mother. She warned him of his imminent death and went on to say that of his three sons, one would be a protector, one would die a youth and be brought back to Toropets, and Basil would become very great. Just after he had had been made Bishopof Alaska, Basil accompanied the body of his youngest brother back to Toropets, in fulfilment of this prophecy. Basil was a very cheerful, good-humoured and kind boy. He was also very intelligent, and used to help his schoolmates with their work.
In 1872 Basil entered the Toropets spiritual school, and in 1878 - the Pskov theological seminary. In 1884, at the very young age of 19, he entered the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. He was very popular with his fellow-students, who prophetically nicknamed him "Patriarch" and once jokingly censed him, crying: "Many years, your Holiness". On June 11, 1888 Basil graduated from the Academy and returned to Pskov seminary as a teacher in Dogmatic and Moral Theology. There he lived very simply in a tiny annexe to a simple wooden house near the church of St. Nicholas. On December 22, 1892 (according to another source, December 14, 1891) he was tonsured into the mantia by Bishop Hermogenes (Dobronravin) of Pskov, and a little later was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood.
In March, 1892, Tikhon was appointed inspector of the Kholm theological seminary, later becoming rector of the same seminary with the rank of archimandrite. (According to one source, he was briefly transferred to the Kazan Theological Academy as rector with the rank of archimandrite, but soon returned to the Kholm seminary as rector.) Here, besides his duties in the seminary, he was made president of the Diocesan Educational Council, president of the Kholm Orthodox Brotherhood of the Mother of God, dean ofthe monasteries of the Kholm-Warsaw diocese and publications censor.
On May 6, 1895 he was awarded the order of St. Anne, second class.
Fr. Tikhon's simple, unaffected ways endeared him to the local population, and many uniates returned to the Orthodox Faith through his gentle tact. This reached the ears of the Holy Synod, who on October 19, 1897 consecrated him Bishop of Lublin, a vicariate of the Kholm-Warsaw diocese, in the Trinity cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg. His consecrators were Metropolitan Palladius (Rayev) of St. Petersburg, Archbishop Arsenius (Bryantsev) of Kazan, Archbishop Anthony (Vadkovsky) of Finland, Bishop John (Kratirov) of Narva and Bishop Gurias (Burtasovsky) of Samara.
After his consecration, Bishop Tikhon returned to Kholm, where he remained for about a year. Then, on September 14, 1898, he was made Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. In 1900 he was appointed Bishop of North America, becoming archbishop on May 19, 1905.
His activity in America was very successful, in recognition of whichhe was awarded the order of St. Vladimir, third class, in 1901, and the order of St. Anne, first class, in 1904. In Minneapolis he founded a seminary, which was soon producing enough American priests to obviate the necessity of sending priests from Russia. And in New Canaan, Pennsylvania he founded the St. Tikhon's monastery. The number of parishes increased from 15 to 70, and all became self-supporting. As in Kholm, Tikhon continued his missionary activity among the uniates, and a large number converted to the Orthodox Faith. Service-books were translated into the English language with his blessing. A special achievement of Tikhon's, in view of the later disintegration of American Orthodoxy into various ethnic groups, was his unification of all the groups - Russian, Greek, Syrian, Bulgarian, Aleut - under his leadership. A symbol of this unity was the first Orthodox Church Council in America, which was convened by Tikhon in Mayfield, New York, in February, 1907.
However, Tikhon did not attend this Council because on January 25, 1907, he was appointed Archbishop of Yaroslavl and Rostov. Here, as always, Tikhon made a special point of visiting all the churches in his diocese, and by his humility, approachability to all classes and kinds of people, and active interest in the details of the lives of all his spiritual children he soon became as popular in Yaroslavl as he had been in Kholm and America. But his gentleness and love were combined with firmness on matters of principle. This once brought him into conflict with the governor of Yaroslavl, who on December 22, 1913 secured his transfer to the diocese of Vilnius. The people were greatly saddened, and at a grand farewell ceremony he was made an honorary citizen of the city, the first time any bishop had been accorded this honour. Earlier the Holy Synod had awarded him the order of St. Vladimir, second class, in 1909, and the order of St. Alexander Nevsky in 1913.
In Vilnius the Russian Orthodox were a distrusted minority in a sea of Catholics. But once again Vladyka succeeded in winning the trust and respect of the heterodox. However, his work in this field was interrupted by the war. He worked first with refugees, and then with the soldiers at the front. He conducted services under bombardment and maintained the morale of the soldiers so well that he was awarded a military order for distinguished conduct. In 1916 he was awarded a diamond cross for wearing on his klobuk.
When Vilnius was occupied by the Germans, Archbishop Tikhon was forced to go to Moscow, taking the relics of the holy three Vilnius martyrs with him. However, he was not detained long in Moscow and soon returned to the part of his diocese which was still in Russian hands. Here he often came under enemy fire.
During the war Archbishop Tikhon was frequently called upon to attend meetings of the Holy Synod. And after the abdication of the Tsar and the coming to power of the Provisional Government in March, 1917, he was a member of the Synod under its new procurator, Prince Lvov. However, there was so much friction between Lvov and the members of the Synod that in April the procurator dismissed all of them except the future traitor of the Russian Church, Archbishop Sergius of Finland. Sergius became head of the new Synod, which also included the future traitor of the Russian Church in America, Metropolitan Platon of Georgia.
Since Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow had been among those removed from his see, it was necessary to elect a new metropolitan. On June 19, 1917, a congress of the clergy and laity of the diocese of Moscow met and on June23 / July 6 (according to another source, June 21 / July 4) elected Tikhon as Archbishop of Moscow and Kolomna (he became metropolitan on August 14/27). However, this appointment caused some pain to him, because for a long time Metropolitan Macarius protested against his removal and did not want to recognize it as lawful.
Metropolitan Tikhon immediately set about visiting all the churches of his diocese, and became a member of the committee to prepare the electionof delegates to the forthcoming Local Council of the Russian Church.
At about this time Bishop Joannicius of Archangelsk arrived at the Solovetsky monastery to supervise monastic life there. As he was coming towards the monastery hospital in the company of the monastery's clergy and monks, he met a monk named Tikhon whom the brotherhood considered to be mad and who ran up to the window, opened it, stood on the sill and started to bless the approaching company with both hands, crying:
"We, humble Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, declare..."
Then he looked at the bishop who was just entering and said:
"and we bless you."
Surprised by this strange behaviour, the bishop asked the superior who this was. And he received the reply:
"This is Monk Tikhon, who already a year ago, having gone out of his mind, began to go up to the window and bless the people entering, saying similar things."
It is not known whether the bishop was satisfied by this reply. But soon the election of Metropolitan Tikhon to the patriarchate gave a prophetic significance to the acts of Monk Tikhon.
On August 15, 1917, the Local Council of the Russian Church opened in the cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow attended by 564 delegates. Metropolitan Tikhon was elected president of the Council by 407 votes to 33.
The first major question before the Council was the restoration of the patriarchate, which had been abolished by Peter the Great in 1700. 200 delegates participated in the Section on the Higher Church Administrationwhich was to decide this question, and for a long time the opponents of the patriarchate, led by the future renovationist Professor Titlinov, waged a bitter struggle against its restoration. However, the Bolshevik coup on October 25 changed the mood of the Council, and on October 31, at the suggestion of Count Paul Mikhailovich Grabbe, nominations of candidates took place.
On the first secret ballot, Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kharkov received 101 votes, Archbishop Arsenius of Novgorod - 27 votes, and Metropolitan Tikhon - 23 votes. On the second ballot, only the first three candidates on the first ballot were considered. Archbishop Anthony got 159 votes, Archbishop Arsenius - 148 votes, and Metropolitan Tikhon - 125 votes. These three names were then put in a blessed urn and placed before the famous wonderworking Vladimir icon of the Mother of God. On the following morning, after the Divine Liturgy and a moleben served to the Holy Hierarchs of Moscow, Elder Alexis of Zossima hermitage drew out one of the names and handed it to Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the future hieromartyr. Metropolitan Vladimir crossed himself and read out:
"Tikhon, Metropolitan of Moscow, Axios!"
After a moleben had been served, the Patriarch-elect said: "Your news about my election as Patriarch is for me that scroll on which was written: 'Tears, groans and mourning.' Such was the scroll that the Prophet Ezekiel had to eat. How many tears I shall have to swallow and how many groans let out in the patriarchal service that is set before me, and especially at such a terrible time! Like the ancient leader of the Hebrew people, Moses, I shall have to say to the Lord: 'Why dost Thou torment Thy servant? And why haveI not found mercy before Thine eyes, that Thou shouldest lay upon me the burden of the whole of this people? Did I bear this people in my womb and give birth to it, that Thou shouldest say to me: bear it in your hands as a nanny bears a child? I alone cannot bear all this people, for it is heavy for me' (Numbers 11.11-14). From now on the care of all the Russian churches is laid upon me, and I must care for them every day. And who could be happy with that, even if he were among those who are stronger than me? But may the will of God be done! I find strength in the fact that I did not seek this election, and it came in spite of me and in spite of men, in accordance with the lot of God. I trust that the Lord Who has called me will Himself helpme through His almighty grace to bear the burden laid upon me and will make it light. A consolation and encouragement for me is the fact that my election has not taken place without the will of the All-Pure Mother of God. Twice she, through the presence of her honourable Vladimir icon has been present in the cathedral of the Saviour at my election. This time the lot was drawn from her wonderworking image. I have as it were come under her honourable omophorion. May she the all-powerful one stretch out to me, the weak one,the hand of her help, and may she deliver this city and all the Russian land from every need and sorrow."
Soon the word went through Moscow that God had chosen, not "the cleverest" (umneyshij), Anthony, or "the strictest" (strozhayshij), Arsenius, but "the kindest" or "the quietest" (tishayshij), Tikhon. And on November21 / December 4, 1917, Metropolitan Tikhon was enthroned as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in the Kremlin Dormition cathedral to the sound of gunfire from the battle of Moscow raging outside.
As he received the staff of St. Peter from Metropolitan Vladimir, the newly elected Patriarch expressed his sorrow at the tragic events that were taking place around him: "The patriarchate," he said, "is being restored in Rus' at a terrible time, in the midst of shooting and weapons of death-dealing fire. Probably it will itself be forced to resort more than once to bans in order to bring the disobedient to their senses and restore church order. But as in ancient times the Lord appeared to the Prophet Elijah not in the storm or in the earthquake but in the coolness and the breath of a quiet breeze, so now to our pusillanimous reproaches: 'Lord, the sons of Russia have abandoned Thy covenant, they have destroyed Thy altars, they have fired at the holy things of the churches and the Kremlin, they have slaughtered Thy priests' - the quiet breath of Thy words is heard: 'Thereare still seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to the contemporary Baal and have not betrayed the true God.' And the Lord as it were says to me: 'Go and search for those for whose sake the Russian Land still stands and is maintained. But do not abandon the lost sheep who are doomed to destruction and slaughter - sheep who are truly pitiful. Shepherd them, and for this take this, the staff of goodwill. With it search out the lost sheep, return the oppressed, bind up the wounds of the wounded, strengthen the sick, destroy those who have grown fat and obstreperous, shepherd them with justice.'"
After the Liturgy the Patriarch immediately went round the Kremlin in a cross procession, sprinkling the wall with holy water.
Patriarch Tikhon immediately had to face a great test of his leadership as the new Bolshevik regime passed law after law restricting and robbing the Church, while excesses and murders of Church servers throughout the country increased. He did not wait for the delegates to the Council to return from their Christmas recess, but immediately took upon himself the whole responsibility for rebuking the communists.
On January 19, 1918, he anathematized the Bolsheviks and their co-workers, saying: "I adjure all of you who are faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ not to commune with such outcasts of the human race in any matter whatsoever". Addressing the pastors and archpastors, he said: "Do not hesitate for a moment in your spiritual activity, but with fiery zeal call your children to defend the rights of the Orthodox Church which are now being trampled on. Immediately organize spiritual unions, call on them to enter, not of necessity but voluntary, into the ranks of the spiritual warriors, who oppose external force with the force of their holy inspiration..." The decree ended with an appeal to defend the Church, if necessary, to the death.
This was read out by Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan to a closed sessionof the Council, which immediately supported the Patriarch with an epistle ofits own.
In March, the Patriarch condemned the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which left millions of Russians in captivity and freed the Bolsheviks to turn the war into a civil one. In July, he condemned the killing of the tsar, and warned that anyone who did not likewise condemn it was also guilty of this most terrible of crimes. And in October, he again condemned the Red terror, saying: "It is not our task to judge earthly governments. Every government allowed by God would attract blessing if it were truly a servant of the Lord for the benefit of its subjects and were a deterrent not for good deeds but for bad (Rom. 13.34). But now to you who use your powers for the persecution of the innocent, we direct our word of warning. Celebrate the anniversaryof your rule by freeing the imprisoned, cease the bloodshed, violence, destruction, persecution of the faith, turn not to destroying, but to maintaining order and laws, give the people their well-deserved rest from civil war. Otherwise you will have to answer for all the righteous blood shed by you (Luke 11.51), and you who have taken the sword will perish by the sword (Matt. 26.52)."
When this epistle was read out at a united session of the Synod andthe Higher Church Council, many tried to dissuade the Patriarch from publishing it, indicating that it would put him in great danger. The Patriarch listened carefully to all this, but did not change his decision. However, the Muscovites feared for the Patriarch's life, and organized 24-hour guards at his residence so that the alarm could be sounded immediately if he was arrested.
At one point shortly after the murder of the Tsar, which the Patriarch openly condemned, some member of the Council suggested to the Patriarch that he take refuge abroad, so that he not share in the fate of the Tsar. "The flight of the Patriarch," replied his Holiness, "would play into the hands of the enemies of the Church. Let them do with me what they want."
As the civil war progressed, however, Tikhon adopted a strictly apolitical stance that reflected the fact that there were millions of Russian Orthodox on either side of the conflict. (However, he is reported as having blessed the White supreme, Admiral Kolchak.) Thus in the autumn of 1919, when the White armies had captured Orel and threatened Moscow, he issued an epistle to the clergy requiring that they not enter into the political struggle, while at the same time reminding them that the commandments of God are more binding than any human directives: "Remember the canonical rules, archpastors and fathers, and the testaments of the holy apostles: 'Guard yourselves from those who create discord and dissension'. Decline from participation in political parties and speeches, obey your human superiors in external matters (I Peter 2.14), give no reasons to the Soviet authorities to suspect you, submit to their commands insofar as they do not contradict faith and piety, for we must obey God, according to the apostolic exhortation, more than men (Acts 4.19; Gal. 1.10)."
On November 7/20, 1920, as the White armies boarded the ships taking them to Constantinople with several Russian hierarchs on board, he issuedhis famous ukaz no. 362, which authorized hierarchs who were out of touch with the centre to form their own autonomous administrations. This not only gave the =E9migr=E9 bishops the basis for their independent activity, but alsohelped the patriarchal Church to survive during the ascendancy of "the Living Church" and was used by the Catacomb Church after the apostasy of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927.
In 1921 a terrible famine struck the Volga region. Tikhon immediately authorized that the Church send aid to the starving, and in August appealed to foreign Christian leaders for help. But the Bolsheviks saw in this tragedy an opportunity to oppress the Church even further, and letters began appearing in the press accusing the Church of greed and demanding that all the Church's wealth should be used to feed the hungry. The Patriarch then issued a statement authorizing that all the church valuables could be donated, but only voluntarily and excluding those which were consecrated for use in the Divine Liturgy.
In February, 1922, the Bolsheviks decreed that the local soviets should seize all the valuables from the churches. This led to bloody clashes between the local soviets and believers. Many Orthodox suffered martyrdom defending the Church from sacrilege, many were brought to trial and the Patriarch himself was placed under house arrest.
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