Today — April 7 – St. Clement’s Episcopal Church commemorates Tikhon, Patriarch of Russia and leader of Russian Orthodoxy in North America.

“Devote all your energy to preaching the word of God and the truth of Christ, especially today, when unbelief and atheism are audaciously attacking the Church of Christ.”

Following the Russian Revolution, the fledgling Soviet government tried to seize control of the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Tikhon resisted. He called upon Orthodox Christians to unite and strengthen the practice of their faith. He openly condemned the killing of the Czar’s family in 1918. He protested against violent Bolshevik attacks on the Church.

Tikhon photo

An estimated five million Russian peasants died in the severe famine of 1921. The Patriarch ordered the sale of church treasures to purchase food for the hungry. The new Soviet government tried to wrest control of the Church from Tikhon, while he, in turn, attempted to shelter his people.

When Tikhon protested publicly against nationalization of Church property, The Soviets declared his protest a criminal act and he was imprisoned for more than a year. During that time, he prayed,

“May God teach every one of us to strive for His truth, and for the good of the Holy Church, rather than something for our sake.”

Tikhon had received his name when he became a monk at the age of 26. The son of a Russian Orthodox priest, he had loved religion from the time he was a young child; he had begun seminary training at the age of 13.

In 1898, Tikhon was consecrated Archbishop of the Aleutians and Alaska, the leader of Russian Orthodoxy in North America. He was held in such esteem that the United States made him an honorary citizen. Tikhon established new cathedrals and churches, from Alaska to New York. He furthered ecumenism, particularly with the Episcopal and Greek Orthodox Churches.

Returning to Russia in 1907, Tikhon’s humble piety won him affection throughout the Church. He was elected 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in November 1917 – one month after the Bolsheviks seized power through the Russian Revolution.

In 1923, Tikhon was “deposed” by a Soviet-sponsored council – an act never recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

On April 7, 1925, worn out by his struggles, Tikhon died. At the time of his death, he was widely considered a martyr for the faith. The Russian Orthodox Church glorified him as a saint in 1989.

Excerpted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses