Daily Reflection April 7th, 2020
APRIL 7, St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow REFLECTION
Fr. John’s Reflection:
“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever.
Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.”
(Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9)
Fr John’s Reflection
Please forgive me today and do not be offended that there is no word from The Prologue of Ochrid of St. Nikolai Velimirovich. For today is the feast day of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, also First Bishop of New York. A personal story: In 1999, I was blessed to be part of an official delegation to the Church of Russia, led by our Metropolitan Theodosius. Because we were led by the head of our Church, it was not a typical tourist excursion. The Christ the Savior Cathedral was just being restored (Russia was lurching in fits and starts out of communism), and the Metropolitan led us through the unfinished church, even on the catwalks four stories above the ground. The Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg was still a “museum,” but we sang the “Eis Polla” trio to His Beatitude and I can still hear the music as it circled its way around the perfect accoustics back to us. We almost started a riot when we “cut the line” with His Beatitude at Sergiev Posad to venerate the Relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh!
But the moment that stands out over all other moments of that trip was our visit to Donskoy Monastery. It was there that the funeral of St. Tikhon took place in 1925, the nation already in the throes of the suffering under communism. Nonetheless, over a million people came. Fearful of what might happen to the patriarch’s body if the authorities got hold of it, the monks hid his body, and it was not discovered until 1992. Those relics are kept in a reliquary at the monastery now. Pilgrims can approach and venerate the glass that covers the body. Not us. Because the Metropolitan was with us, the monks opened the reliquary and we were allowed to venerate the body of the blessed one himself. When they opened the case, an overwhelming scent of holiness filled the temple, everyone was overcome by the power of the presence of the saint and most of us burst into tears. It is impossible to describe the power of that moment, but it is one of the few moments in my life when I knew that God “is wonderful in His Saints.” I was so happy to be in the presence of the saint, that I immediately fell to my knees and began to pray for those whom I love, especially my family. I asked the saint to watch over my wife, Elizabeth, and my children Christopher, Gregory, Nicholas and Juliana, and that he help guide all of our delegation back safely to their homes. It was like the Mount of Transfiguration — no one wanted to leave. But we had to, and went back to our hotel.
It was 1999, not 2020, so communication back home was difficult. No cell phones, email was still pretty new. I was gone for ten days and got to call back once or twice. That evening was one of those times. Right after I got back, I managed to call through as I wanted to share that wonderful moment. One of my kids answered and I asked where Mom was. “She’s at the hospital with Nick.” At the very same moment that I was asking the saint to watch over my wife and children, my son Nick (16 years old) was being rushed to the hospital. At football practice, he shared a sandwich with a friend. We (and he) did not know he was anaphylactic allergic to poppy seeds, which were on the bun. Right there on the field they started first aid and then rushed him to the hospital. My wife told me that Nick was so swollen from the reaction that they couldn’t get a pulse. They stabilized him with as much epinephrine as they could give and finally got a pulse. I close my eyes and can still visualize “my” saint watching over my family at that moment and protecting my son. So, April 7, his repose (and October 9, his canonization) are given in my memory to his memory.
It was said that at the election of the first Patriarch of Moscow since 1700 in the tumultuous year of 1917, there were three candidates, whose names were put into a chalice overnight: Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, the wisest, Archbishop Arseny of Novgorod, the strictest, and Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow, the kindest of the Russian hierarchs. By lot, through the Holy Spirit, after liturgy and a Moleben on November 5, 1917, a monk reached into the chalice and the name of Tikhon was selected. The kindest. I have no doubt.
He (and the whole Russian Church) would go on to be “tested like gold through a furnace” as the Wisdom of Solomon says. Please invest some wonderful, quiet, lenten moments and read his amazing story:
Glory to God! Holy Saint Tikhon, watch over us and protect us!
November 29, 2023
November 29, 2023
November 29, 2023