1981 (3) Patriarch Tikhon
by Bishop Gregory of Manhattan
Fifty years ago, at 11:45 P. M. , just at the close of the feast of the Annunciation of the all-holy Theotokos, His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia reposed in Moscow's private Bakunin Clinic. The Church of Russia was left an orphan, but the Patriarch himself had been freed from unprecedented sufferings, which he had borne without complaint for seven and a half years. Indeed, they had begun on the first day of his patriarchal ministry.
When several days after the October coup d' état the Pan-Russian Council terminated its deliberations on the question of the restoration of the patriarchate and proceeded to the election of a patriarch, none of the candidates could then doubt that the future promised the one elected not so much honor and joy as grievous trials and sufferings. History knows many primates of local Churches who suffered persecution or found themselves in difficult circumstances. They became confessors for the Truth, even martyrs; they were confronted with various complex questions which required wisdom and fortitude to resolve. One may boldly state that not one such hierarch had to face an enemy as evil and mighty as that which it was Patriarch Tikhon's lot to combat. He was elected in anticipation of the battle, but not even the most fertile imagination could have conjured up an accurate picture of the circumstances under which he would have to function in his ministry.
The fact that it was considered necessary to suggest at the Council that the debates be cut short and that it proceed immediately to the election of a patriarch was already an indication that a period of persecution of the Church had begun and that it could not enter upon it without a spiritual leader at its head – a patriarch.
That all three candidates awaited news of the outcome of the casting of lots not so much as a joy, but as a sentence of condemnation, His Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony, the first among them, has told us. Such was the feeling of the newly-elected patriarch, although he exhibited no outward signs of agitation. He was, in general, a man of exceptional reserve, and in anticipation of trials to come placed himself in God's hands. On this occasion, when the members of the Council gathered together that it might be decided by lot whom the Lord ordained to take up the heavy cross of the patriarchate, Metropolitan Tikhon lay down to rest.
That this tranquility did not indicate a lack of understanding of the difficulties and calamities which threatened the one chosen is evident from the
words addressed by the newly-elected patriarch to the delegation sent by the Council to inform him of his election. Having served the short moleben prescribed for this occasion and expressed his gratitude for his election in a few words, the patriarch said the following:
"Your news concerning my election as patriarch is for me that scroll on which was written: 'Lamentation, and mourning, and woe'; such a scroll it behooved the Prophet Ezekiel to eat (Ez. 2:10; 3:1). How many tears will I have to swallow; to how many sighs of mourning will I give utterance in the patriarchal ministry which lies before me, especially during this present, trying year?" And further on he said: "Henceforth the care of all the churches of Russia has been entrusted to me, and every day the prospect of dying for them lies before me. And who, even among those who are stronger than I, would be pleased by these things?..." After his enthronement, when Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev presented him with the staff of St. Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow, Patriarch Tikhon spoke of the forthcoming hardships, the burden of the ministry placed upon him by the election.
Of the three candidates for the patriarchate, Metropolitan Tikhon had received the least number of votes. He was not as well known as the then Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, the true spiritual leader at the Pan-Russian Council, who was honored throughout the whole Orthodox world as a great theologian. Even Archbishop Arseny of Novgorod, the second candidate for the patriarchate, was more widely known than he. Yet in indicating Metropolitan Tikhon in the drawing of lots, Christ, the heavenly Head of the Church, as One Who knows the hearts of men, knew that behind his modest exterior were concealed precisely those qualities which, more than anything else, would be needed by the primate of the Church in the forthcoming days of great tribulations.
Modesty and serenity were the principal traits of his character. Before his election to the patriarchal throne he was not noted for any brilliance of personality. But he had a strong sense of duty and responsibility. As often occurs in life, behind a modest exterior one may find hidden heroic qualities of soul. Moreover, he was possessed of an iron-like self-possession and circumspection. His simplicity of manner, his modesty and benevolent attitude towards the people, drew their hearts to him.
In all the dioceses he served, the people quickly became attached to him and parted with him with great reluctance. When he stated that he himself accepted full responsibility for all his decisions and that none of it was to be laid to those who carried out his will, there was not the least hint of posturing. He never placed the responsibility for his decisions on his advisors. As both Metropolitan Anthony and Metropolitan Anastassy (who was very close to the Patriarch) told me, he knew how to budget his time and receive the many people who called on him. If he limited the time of each visit so as to receive more people, he was able, tactfully though forcefully, to remind his visitor, even if he were a bishop, that time was passing and that the end of the appointed period had been reached. Possessed of indubitable administrative experience, the Patriarch was at the same time not a slave to administration. He was not a formalist, but was ever a living and loving archpastor. He was able to reprimand his subordinates in a calm, inoffensive manner.
The personality of Patriarch Tikhon developed without spiritual crises. His spiritual growth proceeded gradually, with each passing year of his life.
When we look at the photographs of Patriarch Tikhon taken in the last years of his life, he appears very old. We see the wrinkled and tormented face of an aged man. In actuality, he reposed at a mere sixty years of age; his face but reflected the sufferings of the final years of his life.
Patriarch Tikhon, whose name before receiving the monastic tonsure was Vasily Bellavin, was born on January 19, 1865, in Toropets, in the province of Pskov. His father was a priest, and, according to the custom of the time, Vasily also prepared himself for the same ministry. He completed the course of study in a catechetical school and enrolled in the seminary at Pskov. He was noted there as a modest, well-behaved student, a model of profound and sincere piety. He was loved by all for his good disposition, attentiveness to people and industriousness. He excelled in his studies and quite willingly helped his classmates with their studies when they turned to him for elucidation and assistance in writing their assignments. Throughout, Bellavin displayed great patience and an inoffensive humor as was his wont. In educational institutions, especially boarding schools, the students often give each other nicknames. Vasily Bellavin also received one, a very unusual one. His companions nicknamed him "the bishop," revealing thereby their respect for the positive spiritual qualities of his character and for the gravity with which he gave them advice.
Vasily Bellavin completed his seminary course brilliantly at the age of nineteen, a year younger than was usual for those who entered one of the theological academies. This, however, did not prevent him from enrolling in the Petersburg Theological Academy. There he also earned the love and respect of all. Metropolitan Anthony, then Archbishop of Kharkov, greeting Patriarch Tikhon on the occasion of his election, said: "One must of necessity refer to your election as an act of divine providence, for the very reason that it was unknowingly predicted by the friends of your youth, your colleagues at the Academy." And recalling how the classmates of St. Tikhon of Zarionsk had mocked him by swinging their bast sandals before him like censers, thereby foretelling, as it were, his glorification, Metropolitan Anthony continued: "So also your own companions at the Academy nicknamed you 'the patriarch,' when you were yet a layman and neither they, nor you yourself could possibly have conceived of the actual existence of such a title given you by the friends of your youth for your staid, serene disposition and pious demeanor."
On completion of the course of study at the theological academy in 1888, Vasily Bellavin was assigned as an instructor at the Pskov Seminary. Only in December of 1891 was he tonsured a monk with the name Tikhon and ordained hieromonk. The following year he was appointed inspector of the Kholm Seminary and, that same year, was also made rector, first at Kholm, and then at the Kazan Seminary. He spent five years at that post and, on 19 October 1897, was consecrated bishop of Liublin, vicar of the Kholm Diocese. A year did not pass before he was transferred to America, to the Aleutian Diocese. He occupied that see for almost ten years and was there elevated to the rank of archbishop. During his tenure in America Archbishop Tikhon opened many new parishes. Under his administration the diocese strengthened its organization to a significant degree. The memory of his diligent archpastoral labors and his winning personality lives on in America even now.
On 25 January 1907, Archbishop Tikhon was transferred to Yaroslavl'. Hitherto he had made only one journey back to Russia, to participate in a summer session of the Holy Synod. There the young bishop's gifts were noticed, and he was rapidly advanced to serve in his native land. Hardly had the flock of the diocese of Yaroslavl' had a chance to become attached to him, when he was transferred to Vilno, replacing Archbishop Agathangelus.
The see of Vilno was far from being the easiest to manage, since there was a mixed population in Lithuania, with a particularly large number of Catholics. It was essential to maintain the outward prestige of the Russian archbishop before the heterodox. This he managed to do, while still maintaining his personal simplicity and lack of pretensions.
Then, World War I began. The diocese of Vilno found itself within the theater of military activity. More than half of its territory, including Vilno, its capital city, was occupied by the enemy. Archbishop Tikhon was evacuated to Moscow, taking with him the holy relics of the three martyrs of Vilno and other objects of veneration. He made it his business to aid his flock in whatever way he could. Thus, he visited the front lines, encouraging the soldiers. He even came under enemy fire. It was at this time that Archbishop Tikhon was appointed a member the Synod and took part in its sessions until, after the Revolution, it was disbanded by V.N. Lvov, the Procurator-General appointed by the Provisional Government.
This same Lvov retired Metropolitan Macarius from the see of Moscow. According to the rules introduced by the Provisional Government, the new metropolitan had to be elected in the diocese. Thus Archbishop Tikhon, who had earned the love of the pious of Moscow during the time of his sojourn there, was elected. This was, however, bound up with some sorrow, for Metropolitan Macarius tested against his removal from office and long refused to recognize the legality of this act.
By this time, however, the time of the Pan-Russian Church Council had arrived. The arrangements for its organization and the accommodation of its members rested, to a significant degree, upon the shoulders of the new Metropolitan of Moscow. The organization was carried out to perfection. It is not surprising that Metropolitan Tikhon was elected, almost unanimously, President of the Pan-Russian Council, the vote being 407 for, only 33 against.
It was not an easy task to preside at the Council. Though the majority of the elected delegates of the Council showed themselves to be faithful children of the Church, there were, however, a considerable number of Council delegates, predominantly those appointed by the Provisional Government, who were by their inclination renovationists and strove to inculcate revolution within the fold of the Church. Quite a few assemblies and meetings preceded the Council, at which their voices, supported by the ministerial apparatus of the Synod, were loudly raised. As always happens in revolutionary movements, everyone spoke of rights, but remembered little of responsibilities. Such people tried to introduce the spirit of revolutionary gatherings at the sessions of the Council. It was their steadfast hope that, through the Council, a reform might be brought about in the Russian Church. And, of course, the thing they feared the most was the restoration of the patriarchate. Formally, not the least mention of the patriarchate was made in the broad agenda and the program of the Council which encompassed all aspects of Church life. This question was first posed by laymen in the Department of Higher Ecclesiastical Administration. At first, not even all the bishops were sympathetic to the restoration of the patriarchate.
The Council's Department of Higher Ecclesiastical Administration drew particular attention to itself. More than two hundred members participated in it, among them many professors. Yet simple peasants also took part in it. Opponents of the patriarch there waged a vicious battle. Their leader was professor Titlinov, the future idealogue of renovationism. But no matter how hard they tried, the idea of the patriarchate grew all the more in the minds of the members of the Council.
When the communist coup d' état had been accomplished, the membes of the Council saw with clarity that the Church could not exist under the new conditions without a leader at its helm. Sessions continued while gunfire raged through the streets of Moscow. Many bishops and members of the Council arrived for the sessions despite the whistling of bullets. But the most outspoken opponents of the patriarchate were apparently less brave and turned out in small numbers when the resolution to cease debate and to proceed directly to the election of a patriarch was adopted. A quorum existed. Metropolitan Tikhon presided. He conducted the session with his usual serenity, but at the same time with firmness, and he acted decisively against those who attempted to halt the election of the patriarch.
Thus the great task was accomplished. The humble Tikhon, humble not only in his official signature, but in reality, became patriarch. l have already recounted how he accepted the election. Yet to this I should add that Patriarch Tikhon considered himself not only the canonical head of the Russian episcopate, but the leader of the Russian Orthodox people. They elected him to serve in this capacity. The desire to have such a leader at the outset of the persecution of the Church and in the midst of all the grievous crimes of the Soviet regime is clear from the many statements of the members of the Pan-Russian Council who fought for the restoration of the patriarchate. With the fall of the monarchy Holy Russia was without a head. Then Patriarch Tikhon became its head, and he fully realized the historic responsibility which rested upon his shoulders.
The newly-elected Patriarch received many expressions of joy over his election, as well as statements of devotion. All of these strengthened and comforted him. But, on the other hand, his enthronization in the Cathedral of the Dormition, which had been damaged by shellfire, the seizure of the Kremlin by Red forces, and the patriarchal processions encounter with communist demonstrations as it passed around the Kremlin, reminded him of the approaching enslavement of Russia. Accepting the staff of St. Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow, from the hands of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the Patriarch gave vent to the bitterness provoked by events taking place outside. "The patriarchate," he said, "is restored in Russia amid terrible days, amid fire and bombardment by lethal weaponry." He addressed to God these sorrowful words: "O Lord, the children of Russia have forsaken Thy covenant, they have destroyed Thine altars, have devastated the temples and shrines of the Kremlin, and have slain Thy priests!" But the Patriarch felt then that even such criminals had been entrusted to his care, insofar as he was the common supreme pastor. He continued: "And the Lord, as it were, has said thus unto me: 'Go and search out those for whose sake the Russian land still stands and holds its ground. But do not forsake those stray sheep which have been condemned to destruction, to the slaughter – sheep that are truly unfortunate. Shepherd them, and for this take up thy staff, the staff of goodwill. With it seek out the lost sheep; return the one that has been driven away; the wounded one bandage; the sick one strengthen; eliminate the fat and the truculent; shepherd them in righteousness.' "
This awareness of his archpastoral responsibility for the entire Russian people, for all of holy and sinful Russia, explains Patriarch Tikhon's first steps, when, in an awe-inspiring epistle, he denounced the Commissars of the People and consigned the communists to anathema for their evil deeds.
In this remarkable epistle one finds something very important and characteristic of the patriarch. He had been elected only a short time. News of the communists' evil activities had already begun to spread even before the members of the Pan-Russian Council had dispersed for the Christmas recess. Their mood was well known to the Patriarch and he could have had doubts that they would support any protest or denunciation of the People's Commissars he would make. However, the Patriarch chose not to wait for the return of the Council's members. On the eve of its assembly he promulgated his famous denunciatory epistle, which was read to the Council by Metropolitan Cyril in closed session. Thus the Patriarch showed that he himself would bear the responsibility for the epistle and the risk of possible repercussions. The Council understood this and evaluated it on its merits. It supported the Patriarch by publishing an epistle itself, in the same spirit.
Such a sacrificial readiness to take the blows of the persecutors upon himself the Patriarch also showed in connection with the confiscation of the Church's treasures. When those who defended the Church were condemned for opposing the decree of the People's Commissars, the Patriarch boldly stated that he would answer for their actions and no one else, for they had been carrying out his orders.
With each day the oppression of the Church grew, and the Patriarch received grievous reports of the murders of the clergy and the plundering of sacred shrines. The Church responded to these with the organization of processions and parish associations. In January of 1918, when the requisition of the premises of the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra was announced in Petrograd and a large popular assembly was held, it adopted the following resolution: "To make clear to all the Orthodox, not only in the churches, but in the market-places and squares, and everywhere possible, that the Orthodox Church is undergoing open persecution." It was decided to print leaflets for a widespread distribution to all levels of the populace, calling upon believers to unite for the defense of the Faith and their holy places. In other cities similar measures were also adopted. At times they achieved their goals. This was in response to the Patriarch's epistle of 6/19 January, in which he called upon the faithful, saying: "If it be necessary to suffer for Christ's work, we call upon you, beloved children of the Church, we call upon you to suffer these things with ourselves." Addressing himself to the archpastors and pastors, the Patriarch wrote: "Tarry not even a single hour in your spiritual activity. With flaming zeal call your children to the defense of the rights of the Orthodox Church which are now being trampled underfoot. Immediately form spiritual unions. Call them, not out of necessity, but of their own free will, to join the ranks of spiritual warriors who will oppose external power with the power of their inspiration..."
As much as the Church was subjected to oppression, so much did it strengthen its opposition. After the first year of the Soviet regime's existence had passed, the patriarch addressed a new denunciatory epistle, dated 25 October 1918, to the People's Commissars. Therein the patriarch enumerated the crimes of the Soviet regime. He spoke of the fact that the Bolsheviks had divided the whole nation into hostile camps, had replaced the love of Christ with hatred, and in place of peace had artificially ignited class enmity. "No one feels safe," the Patriarch wrote. "Everyone lives under constant fear of being searched, robbed, exiled, arrested and shot." Further on, the Patriarch speaks of the persecution of the Church. "We finally know," he wrote, "that our reprimands elicit only malice and discontent among you, and that you will only find in them cause to accuse us of opposition to the regime; but the higher the pillar of your malice rises, the more certain will the witness of the righteousness of our denunciations become." The Patriarch called upon the Commissars to mark the anniversary of the existence of their regime with the liberation of the imprisoned and the cessation of bloodshed, oppression, destruction and the suppression of the Faith...
Here again the Patriarch had stepped forward as the spiritual head of the Russian nation; he grieved over it, over all the calamities which Communism had brought upon the land.
When the Patriarch read his epistle at a joint session of the Synod and the Higher Ecclesiastical Council, many sought to dissuade him from publishing it, pointing out the danger which might threaten him. The Patriarch listened to all of this with great attentiveness, but remained steadfast in his resolve. In Moscow especially, the faithful feared for his person. Parishioners appointed sentries to keep watch over his quarters, that the alarm might be sounded in all the churches if the Patriarch were arrested.
In view of the martialling of the Church's power to oppose the persecution, the communists attacked from another angle. To the brutal persecutions conducted under the pretense of confiscating the Church's treasures, allegedly for the assistance of the starving, they added a schism.
Immediately after the revolution, in March of 1917, a group of revolutionary priests was organized in Petrograd. They made their objective the introduction of reformation into the Church and the reduction of the authority of the bishops to nought. Having wielded great influence at the Pre-conciliar Council and within the Synod itself, they expected the Pan-Russian Council to reflect the revolutionary mood which reigned in Russia and had wormed its way into the Church. They prepared material for the Council and would in no way permit the thought of the possibility of the restoration of the Patriarchate. Yet not in a single diocese were members of the group chosen as delegates to the council. Only those of its members who had participated in the Pre-Conciliar Council and the Synod became members of the Council's membership. This was far from sufficient to carry the Council, for the vast majority of the elected delegates were much more conservative in spirit. Indeed, the peasants elected by the parishes proved very valuable members of the Council. The final decision of the Council to restore the Patriarchate and the failure of the attempt to nullify the authority of the bishops were a mighty blow for the partisans of renovationism. Professor Titlinov, who had fought savagely at the Council against the Patriarchate and the canonical position of the bishops, left the Council. At the time, he felt his impotence in the struggle against the Orthodox delegates at the Council and the hierarchy. But he and his partisans did not put down their weapons. They fell silent only for a time.
No sooner had the conflict developed between the Patriarch and the whole Church and the civil authority, than the renovationists took heart. They enlisted the support of the Soviet regime and set about to revolutionize the Church. It is without doubt that there was one common guiding principle in the measures adopted by the government and the renovationists.
Metropolitan Benjamin was brought to trial for opposing the confiscation of the Church's treasures. Patriarch Tikhon was brought to trial on the same charge and was finally put under house arrest.
When the Patriarch was arrested, none of the members of the Synod were in Moscow. The Church was without an administrative apparatus. The Patriarch invested Metropolitan Agathangelus with the authority to govern the Church, but the latter was prevented from reaching Moscow. In the meanwhile, a delegation of clergymen visited the Patriarch, renovationists who had come from Petrograd. Yet, in approaching the Patriarch, they did so in the guise of loyal sons. They lamented the lack of an administrative apparatus, that the Patriarchal and Synodal Chanceries were inoperative, for there were matters to be attended to. The Patriarch trusted them and wrote a resolution relinquishing his functions to Metropolitan Agathangelus, and entrusting the Chancery to the delegation which had visited him. Under Numerov, the Synod's secretary, the delegation had to transfer the Chancery to Metropolitan Agathangelus when he arrived. Their powers were quite limited. None of the actual administration was entrusted to them. But the Soviet regime helped them by not permitting the locum tenens of the Patriarch to come to Moscow, and they regarded their own position as that of those who had been given authority to govern as it were, by the Patriarch himself. It was not long before Metropolitan Agathangelus was arrested.
Meanwhile, the renovationists, without prior arrangement, formed a Higher Ecclesiastical Administration and demanded that all submit to them. Metropolitan Benjamin, who was then still free, immediately excommunicated the rebels from the Church; but this did not halt them. Supported by the civil authority, they dispatched plenipotentiaries to all the dioceses. They presented themselves before the bishops accompanied by members of the Cheka and the local Soviet. If there was any show of resistance, the bishop and his colleagues were arrested or exiled. Seizing power, the renovationists, or "Living Churchmen," strove to introduce a reform into all aspects of Church life. Before all the dogmas of the Church they set collaboration with communism. For a person to be faithful to the Patriarch, or, as they referred to his loyal children, a Tikhonite, was tantamount to being a counter-revolutionary. Countless were the confessors and martyrs who suffered for the Faith because of the denunciations and intrigues of the renovationists.
Throughout, the Patriarch was under arrest. He knew of the breakdown within the Church. He knew that many bishops had already been murdered or exiled, and that, unable to bear the pressure, many had proved unfaithful to him. He heard that whole dioceses had come under the control of the Renovationists, that even such prominent hierarchs as Metropolitan Sergius had gone over to them. Information reached him only through his jailers. Did they permit him to learn of the resistance to Renovationism on the part of the Church's faithful children? And who headed them? Metropolitan Agathangelus was also under house arrest.
The Patriarch perceived that the believers were without leadership, that the spread of the heresy of Renovationism was unopposed. How would the disintegration be halted? To him, the situation might have seemed even worse than it in fact was.
When the greater part of a country is captured by the foe, its defenders attempt to save at least a foothold. The Patriarch saw that, under the given circumstances, he could not retain all the functions he had assumed as Patriarch. It was beyond his power to maintain his position as leader of the Orthodox people for the whole Russian nation and to protect the Church from wolves that did not even try to hide themselves in sheep's clothing. To preserve what was most important, he withdrew from his battle against communist politics. He decided that the principal concern at that time was to return to the Russian Church its head, to provide the faithful with a visible standard which would unite them in the defense of Orthodoxy.
In the meantime, the Church Abroad had succeeded in mobilizing people of other countries in an attempt to defend the Patriarch. The British government, the governments of France, the United States, Czechoslovakia, and others, sent protests to Moscow. Keeping the Patriarch in prison became a political problem for the Soviets, a fact of which the Patriarch himself was not aware. Then the Soviet regime reached a compromise with him, and he himself conceded a single point so as to preserve for himself what remained. He asked to be released, announcing at the same time that he was ceasing his battle against the Soviet regime. He did not agree to be its servant; he only stated that he was no longer an enemy of the Soviet state and expressed regret over the past.
The Patriarch was released. Many think that the Bolsheviks thought that the statement he signed would alienate the faithful from him. Perhaps it was so. Perhaps they themselves believed that the people were following the Patriarch principally because he was an enemy of the Soviet regime. If so, they were mistaken. The people did not forsake the Patriarch, and many who had left returned to the bosom of the Church.
Yet the communists' sympathy, of course, remained on the side of the Renovationists and not that of the Tikhonites. Gradually, it is true, the latter recovered somewhat and then began to win back some positions from constituents of the Living Church.
The brutal persecution did not let up during the entire remaining period of the Patriarch's life. They wished thereby to make him their obedient slave, as Metropolitan Sergius subsequently became, but he remained a guardian of Orthodoxy.
Never during the Church's entire history had it ever been confronted by such a cruel and evil foe. The Patriarch literally fell ill after every encounter with Tuchkov, who directed Soviet ecclesiastical policy. The Patriarch was not afraid of martyrdom. The most savage death would probably have been easier for him than having to be constantly concerned over exiled bishops, priests and faithful laymen. On the other hand, the breakdown which took place during his imprisonment indicated, it would seem, that it was essential to do everything possible without changing the fundamental principles of the Church and its internal freedom, that the recent state of affairs under which the sheep were abandoned to the mercy of wolves, would not occur again. The sheep, however, realized that their shepherd had not forsaken them, but had been parted from them against his will. And they showed their love for him whenever possible.
Whenever the Patriarch served in a given church, it was filled to capacity with worshipers. While he was still strong enough to visit the outlying districts, he was greeted by crowds of believers.
Regarding administration, the Patriarch was, in essence, helpless. He said of his position: "It is better to sit in prison than to be free and unable to do anything. I send a bishop to the south – he ends up in the north. I send one to the west, and they ship him to the east."
At times, the Patriarch ceded a point, hoping that his concession would not become a matter of principle. But it became difficult for him to judge rightly under the Soviet system of false information. For example, Tuchkov demanded of him the introduction of the New Calendar. The Patriarch was opposed to this and did not wish to yield. On the one hand they used threats, and on the other they reported that all the Orthodox Churches had accepted the New Calendar. What could he say against such an argument? He deliberately ordered that the ukase extracted from him against his will be given to someone with a weak voice for proclamation. Later, Metropolitan Anastassy sent him a telegram from Constantinople, reporting that not all the Churches had accepted the New Calendar; and Tuchkov, having impelled the Patriarch to make an unpopular decision, lost interest in the matter. In the given instance, the weakness of the administrative apparatus was useful, for it hindered dissemination of what proved a stumbling-block. The administration of the Church had no press at its disposal. The former chairman of the Consistory under Patriarch Tikhon, Archpriest V. Vinogradov, summed up Tuchkov's tactics thus: "Tuchkov's relation to the Patriarchal Administration was not unlike that of a cat to a mouse. On the one hand, he was constantly hinting to the Patriarchal Administration of that of which it was well aware and could sense without his hints, viz. that it was an illegal organization which had no right to exist in Soviet Russia, and therefore, at any given moment, the CPU could close it down if it caused the regime the least dissatisfaction and could re-arrest all of its members; and on the other hand, Tuchkov issued ultimata to the adminstration on the introduction into the life of the Church of certain measures which would, in effect, have amounted to conscious self-destruction. Each such demand was accompanied by a promise to grant legalization if carried out, and with threats of the dissolution and abolition of the offices of ecclesiastical administration and the arrest of all its members if they were not."
Some of the demands so made were, for example, the commemoration of the regime and the introduction of the New Calendar. Reform was necessary only to cast the Church into confusion. On the one hand, they declined to give the press permission to print the ukase. and Tuchkov maintained that it was of no interest to him, saying: "Well, you know what to do... It's your business." They printed an announcement of the introduction of the New Calendar in the newspapers after it had already been repealed, and later the Patriarchal Epistle was published with the comment that the Patriarch had not repealed the New Calendar, but that, in certain places, with the permission of local Soviet authorities, it was permitted to celebrate the Nativity of Christ according to the Old Calendar. Father Vinogradov also gives us an interesting and important elucidation: "I could not determine what the origin of this document was, since it had not passed through the Patriarchal Adminstration, had not been passed on to anyone and had gone no further than the Soviet newspapers; neither the original, nor a copy was to be had, and, what is most important, it had no application to Church life." Father Vinogradov further states that another attempt was made by the Soviets to introduce the New Calendar, for which a conference was held with Commissar Smidovich. This time, the Patriaich's representative did not give in, and the "reform" remained abrogated.
When a cat toys with a mouse it has captured, it releases it for a little while and then pounces again, and so on until it has exhausted its prey. Thus did Tuchkov play with the Patriarch. This all must be kept in mind when assessing the epistles Patriarch Tikhon issued after his release.
Each such public act was the fruit of his dealings with Tuchkov. But if one carefully examines these acts, one perceives that in essence the Patriarch never goes farther than the negative statement that he is not an enemy of the Soviet regime. On 28 June 1923, the Patriarch wrote: "Of course, I have not given myself out to be such a worshiper of the Soviet regime as the renovators of the Church show themselves to be. On the other hand, l am far from being such a foe to it as they allege me to be." True, in the appeal of 1 June 1923, there are purely Soviet expressions: "enemies of the working people," "monarchists and white guards,"...words alien to the Patriarch and patently borrowed from Tuchkov's project; yet, despite it all, the Patriarch remained faithful to the position he had taken, that he was merely not an "enemy" of the Soviet government. There were threats then, that if the bishops outside of the Soviet Union did not cease their "counter-revolutionary activity" in the future, "it would then become necessary to call them to answer before an ecclesiastical court, and request the government to permit them to come here" (i.e., to Moscow), as though meeting the desires of the Soviets halfway. However, this was in effect a refusal to conduct the trial in absentia which the Bolsheviks had demanded, and which "Patriarch" Sergius later carried out.
Earlier still, while under house arrest, at the session of the Synod, in a building surrounded by troops, the Patriarch consented to issue a ukase to dissolve the Higher Church Authority Abroad; but this was clearly the result of coercion. Shishkin, the Soviet historian of the Renovationist movement, writes that the Patriarch did not want to come out against the resolutions of the First Council of Karlovtsy, and did so only under pressure from the civil authorities. Moreover, in an epistle dated 2/15 March, 1931, Metropolitan Anthony wrote that later, sometime in 1923 or 1924, the Patriarch confirmed the resolution of the same Higher Church Authority Abroad on the division of the Harbin diocese. Thus, although he had formally disbanded it (i.e., the Higher Church Authority Abroad), on the other hand he acknowledged its legal power by his own decision.
In no way did the Patriarch want to be a pawn in the hands of the Soviet regime. But his struggle for the Church's spiritual freedom drained him considerably.
The Patriarch tried to remain in the people's eye. He visited churches and served in various parishes. But the spiritual sufferings occasioned by the endless intrigues of the Renovationists and the demands of Tuchkov quickly exhausted his strength. His naturally good health gave out increasingly as he experienced grievous temptations. His heart could not bear the continual stress. Attacks of coronary angina grew in intensity and frequency. On 12 January 1925, his physicians decided to admit the Patriarch to the hospital. The following day he entered the private clinic of E. Bakunin. There they diagnosed chronic nephritis, widespread sclerosis and attacks of angina pectoris. Complete rest was prescribed for him, although enforcing it was quite difficult. He was continually visited on official and personal business. On the second day of his stay, the Patriarch was visited by Tuchkov, the head of the ecclesiastical department of the CPU. The Patriarch recovered rapidly in the hospital and began to travel to services in various churches. He continued to work beyond his capacity and flatly refused his doctorsâ suggestion to limit his work. The visits of Tuchkov and an investigator from the GPU were especially burdensome. They undermined his health.
On the feast of the Annunciation, in 1925, the Patriarch's health grew worse. Not long before, they had extracted two of his teeth, and this had resulted in an inflammation of the gums which had spread to his throat. The doctors, however, did not consider him to be in any real danger. Despite his condition, the Patriarch was impelled to travel to a session of the Synod on that day. The business at hand was a firm demand by Tuchkov for the immediate publication of an epistle which would alter the previous stance of the Patriarch. His maintaining that he was not an "enemy" of the Soviet regime did not satisfy Tuchkov. He wanted a declaration of complete loyalty and cooperation, similar to the one published later by Metropolitan Sergius. The project, worked out at the Synod's session, was to be taken by Metropolitan Peter to Tuchkov for approval.
No one knows exactly, but it appears that Metropolitan Peter returned to the Patriarch in the clinic either with a reply or with further demands from Tuchkov in connection with this project. One can surmise that these demands were accompanied by the usual threats. No one knows the content of the conversation between the Metropolitan and the Patriarch. It is known that the conversation with Metropolitan Peter was very heated, and that a doctor had to go in to put an end to it. The Patriarch was exhausted. Soon he began to have attacks. He was given an injection of morphine and lay down to sleep.
At about 12:00 an aide noticed a relapse and summoned a doctor, but nothing could be done. At 11:45 the Patriarch opened his eyes and asked, "What time is it?" When they replied, he made the sign of the Cross three times over himself and said: "Glory to Thee, O God," and surrendered his spirit into the hands of the Lord.
The Patriarch reposed during his final encounter with the enemies of the Church. The present Moscow Patriarchate presents the document published after his death and called his "Testament" as the genuine expression of his will. But how can this be? Did he really die in a moment of defeat, having made the ultimate compromise demanded of him by his enemies? Would he have done this before his death?
One can state with assurance that this was not the case, but that the Patriarch, physically unable to endure the strain, died without yielding to the enemies of the Church. Against this they present us with the appeal printed in Izvestia, referred to as his Testament. They say that it was submitted to the editorial board by two metropolitans.
By the grace of God we have priceless testimony refuting its alleged authenticity.
The question itself deserves a special investigation. I dedicated many pages to it in my book, The Truth About the Russian Church in the Homeland and Abroad. The main and very important witness is Archpriest Vasily Vinogradov, who has already been mentioned.
Yet, apart from him, we know that on the day of the Patriarch's repose, the question of the epistle demanded by Tuchkov was deliberated upon. Apparently, it was the subject of the last conversation between the Patriarch and Metropolitan Peter. The room in which the Patriarch reposed was immediately sealed by Tuchkov. It was only seven days later that Tuchkov gave the alleged "Testament" of His Holiness to the two metropolitans to take to the newspaper.
But Fr. Vinogradov, from the words of a person close to the room of His Holiness, informs us that during the Patriarch's conversation with Metropolitan Peter, the former was heard to say: "I cannot do this!" It is also important that at the meeting of those bishops who had come for the Patriarch's funeral, the notorious "Testament" was not read. Fr. Vinogradov is correct in maintaining that Tuchkov, having permitted the meeting, would undoubtedly have demanded the proclamation and approval of the "Testament" had it indeed been signed by the Patriarch. This, however, did not take place. Moreover, Metropolitan Peter, in his first epistle as locum tenens, not only did not mention the "Testament", but wrote an appeal of his own in an entirely different spirit. It is noteworthy that the so-called "Testament" begins with a statement that the Patriarch was writing it, "having recovered from sickness"; yet we know, on the contrary, that the state of the Patriarch's health in his last days was quite bad, and on the very day of the supposed signing of the document his health was particularly poor. The title "Testament" attached to the composition in question in no wise corresponds to the actual content of the document, which speaks of the return of the recuperated author to active work. These are but a few considerations. Archpriest Vinogradov, comparing many facts, arrives at the logical conclusion that the Patriarch's signature did not appear under the text submitted to him. "But," he writes, "Tuchkov was a man who would not stop at forgery to reach his goal; just as he had come out with the above-mentioned epistle on the New Calendar, just as he had fabricated an unapproved project for the Higher Church Administration, so did he decide to act in the given instance: he resolved to publish the document which the Patriarch had not signed, as though it were signed."
Hence, the Patriarch remained undefeated in his final battle with the enemies of the Church. He did not sully his image as a contender for the purity of the Church. Having won a spiritual victory, he surrendered his suffering soul to God. Not in vain did the whole Russian Church and all the other Orthodox Churches mourn his loss, as witnessed by the expressions of sympathy received by Metropolitan Anthony from all the partiarchs and many others.
It is not without cause that, on the inspired icon of all the saints who have shone forth in the Russian land, the choir of new martyrs is led by the depiction of Patriarch Tikhon. One can well believe that, having passed through such
sufferings on earth in his great and difficult struggle, the Patriarch has truly
joined the choir of the holy strugglers of the Russian land.
Translated from The Orthodox Way (in Russian), 1975, pp.3-32.