Sainted Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh
Commemorated on August 13
Sainted Tikhon of
Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh (in the world Timofei), was born in the year
1724 in the village of Korotska in Novgorod diocese, into the family of the
cantor Savelii Kirillov. (A new family name – Sokolov, was given him
afterwards by the head of the Novgorod seminary). After the death of his father
in early childhood he lived in such poverty, that his mother was just barely
able to make ends meet and she gave him over for raising to a neighbour, a
coachman, since there was nothing wherewith to feed the family. Eating only
black bread and even that in great moderation, the boy worked for a rich
gardener to dig the vegetable beds. As a thirteen year old lad, he was sent to
a clergy school near the Novgorod archbishop's home, and in 1740 he was
accepted under a state grant set up for the Novgorod seminary. The youth
excelled at his studies and upon finishing seminary in 1754 he became a teacher
at it, at first in Greek language, and later in rhetoric and philosophy. In the
year 1758 he accepted monastic tonsure with the name Tikhon. And in that same
year they appointed him to the position of prefect of the seminary. In 1759
they transferred him to Tver', with an elevation to the dignity of
archimandrite of the Zheltikov monastery. Later they appointed him rector of
the Tver' seminary and at the same time head of the Otrocha monastery. On 13
May 1761 he was ordained bishop of Keksgol'ma and Ladoga (i.e. a vicar bishop
of the Novgorod diocese). His ordination was providential. They had proposed
that the young archimandrite should transfer to the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra, but
at Peterburg during the selection of a Novogorod vicar-bishop, at Pascha, from
8 castings of lots his name came up thrice.
And on this same day the Tver' bishop, Athanasii, without realising it, mentioned him at the Cherubimic hymn commemorations as bishop.
In 1763 Saint Tikhon was transferred to the Voronezh cathedra-seat. Over the course of the four and an half years that he directed the Voronezh diocese, Saint Tikhon provided it constant edification both by his life and by his numerous pastoral guidances and soul-saving books. He wrote down for pastors a whole series of works: "About the Seven Holy Sacramental-Mysteries", "A Supplement to the Priestly Office", "Concerning the Sacrament of Repentance", "An Instruction Concerning the Making of Marriage". The saint considered it especially essential, that each clergy-server have a New Testament, and that it should be read daily. In his "Circular Letter" he called on pastors to make the sacraments with reverence, and with thought on God and love towards brother. (The "Guidances concerning the Proper Duties of Every Christian" was repeatedly republished in Moscow and Peterburg already during the XVIII Century). At Voronezh the saint eradicated an ancient pagan custom – the celebration in honour of Yarilo [originally a solar springtime pagan god connected with the fertility of grain and cattle]. In the outlying districts where military units of the Don Cossacks were dispersed, he formed a missionary commission to restore sectarians to the Orthodox Church. In 1765, Saint Tikhon transformed the Voronezh Slavic-Latin school into a clergy seminary, and having invited experienced instructors from Kiev and Khar'khov, he worked out for it the teaching courses. He exerted much attention and effort to build up both the churches and the school, and to guide and make pastors understand and be persuaded of the need for education. In administering the vast diocese, the saint was unflagging in his efforts, and he often spent nights without sleep. In 1767 he was compelled because of poor health to give up the running of the diocese and withdraw for rest to the Tolshevsk monastery, at a distance 40 versts from Voronezh. In 1769 the saint transferred over to the Bogoroditsk monastery in the city of Zadonsk. Having settled into this monastery, Saint Tikhon became a great teacher of the Christian life. With deep wisdom he set forth the ideal of true monasticism – in his "Rule of Monastic Living" and his "Guidances to Turn from the Vanity of the World", and in his own life he fulfilled this ideal. He kept strictly to the directives of the Church, zealously (almost daily) he visited the temple of God, often he himself sang and read in the choir, and with time, out of humility he altogether left off participating and making services and instead but merely stood in the altar, reverently making the sign of the cross over himself. His beloved cell task was in reading the Lives of the Saints and the works of the holy fathers. The Psalter he knew by heart and on journeys he usually read or sang psalms. The saint underwent much tribulation, being devastated over the need of leaving his flock. Having recovered his health, he gave thought to returning to the Novgorod diocese, whither metropolitan Gavriil had invited him to head the Iversk Vallaisk monastery. But when his cell-attendant mentioned about this to the starets-elder Aaron, that one declared: "Art thou mad? The Mother of God doth not direct him to move away from here". The cell-attendant conveyed this to His Grace. "If that be so, – said the saint, – I shall not move away from here", – and he tore up the invitation. Sometimes he journeyed off to the village of Lipovka, where he himself made Divine-services at the Bekhteev house. The saint journeyed also to the Tolshevsk monastery, which he loved for its solitude.
The fruition of all his spiritual life was the works, which the saint wrote while in retirement: "The Spiritual Treasury, Gathered from the World" (1770), and likewise – "About True Christianity" (1776).
The saint lived in very simple circumstances: he slept on straw, covered by a sheepskin coat. His humility got to be so great, that to the mockery which frequently came his way, the saint did not pay any attention, giving the appearance that he did not hear it, and he was wont to say afterwards: "It thus pleases God, that servants make mockery over me – and this becometh me because of my sins". He often said in like circumstances: "Forgiveness is better than revenge".
One time a fool named Kamenev struck the saint on the cheek with the words: "Be not so haughty", – and the saint, having received this with gratitude, daily fed the fool.
All his life the saint "in troubles, and sorrows, and insults hast thou joyfully endured, mindful that there cannot be the crown without the victory, nor victory without effort, nor effort without struggle, nor struggle without enemies" (Song 6 of the Canon).
Strict towards himself, the saint was indulgent towards others. One time on the Friday before the feast of Palm Sunday he entered the cell of his friend the schema-monk Mitrophan, and he saw him at table together with Kozma Ignat'evich, of whom he was also fond. On the table was fish. His friends became upset. But the blessed saint said: "Sit down, for I know ye, and love is higher than fasting". And to further quiet them, he closed his ears to the matter. He especially loved the common folk, he consoled them in their grievous lot, interceding with the landowners, and moving them to compassion. All his pension and gifts from admirers he gave away to the poor.
By his deeds of self-denial and love of soul, the saint advanced in contemplation of Heaven and foresight of the future. In 1778, in a vivid dream he had suchlike a vision: the Mother of God stood in the clouds and around Her were the Apostles Peter and Paul; the saint himself on bended knees besought the All-Pure Virgin to continue showing mercy unto the world. The Apostle Paul loudly exclaimed: "When speak they peace together in affirmation, then wilt befall them unexpected universal destruction". The saint fell asleep in trembling and in tears. In the following year he again saw the Mother of God in the air and around Her several personages; the saint fell down on his knees, and around him at his knees fell four vestments of white attire. The saint besought the All-Pure Virgin for someone in particular, that they not be taken away from him (who this person was and for what the prayer, the saint told not his cell-attendant), and She answered: "Sobeit at thine request". Saint Tikhon predicted much about the fate of Russia, and in particular he spoke about the victory of Russia in the Fatherland War of 1812. More than once did they see the saint in spiritual rapture, with a transformed and luminous face, but he forbade them to speak about this. For three years before his end he each day prayed: "Tell me, O Lord, of my end". And a quiet voice in the morning dawn exclaimed: "On a Sunday". In that same year he saw in a dream a beautiful ray of light and upon it wondrous palaces and he wanted to go inside the doors, but they said to him: "Three years hence thou canst enter herein, but now work on". After this the saint secluded himself in his cell and admitted only but a few friends. For his death the saint readied both clothing and grave: he often came to weep over his grave, standing hidden from people in a closet. A year and three months before his death in a vivid dream it occurred to the saint, that he was standing in the monastery chapel-church and a priest acquaintance was carrying from the altar to the royal doors an image of the Divine Infant beneathe a veil. The saint approached and gave kiss to the Infant at the right cheek, and he felt himself stricken on the left. Awakening, the saint sensed a numbness in his left cheek, his left leg, and a trembling in his left hand. He accepted this illness with joy. Shortly before his death, the saint saw in a dream an high and twisting ladder and he heard a command to climb up upon it. "I, – as he related to his close friend Kozma, – at first was afraid because of weakness. But when I started to go up, the people standing around the ladder, it seemed, helped me to go higher and higher to the very clouds". "The ladder, – he explained to Kozma, – is the pathway to the Heavenly Kingdom; helpful to thee – are those things which be useful guidances to thee and of remembrance to thee". The saint said with tears: "I myself do think this: the feeling that the end is nigh". During the time of his illness he frequently communed the Holy Mysteries.
Saint Tikhon died, as revealed to him, on Sunday 13 August 1783, at 59 years of age. The glorification of the saint likewise was done on a Sunday – 13 August 1861.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.