Memories of a patriarch

Daily Reading for April 7 • Tikhon, Patriarch of Russia, Confessor and Ecumenist, 1925

Patriarch Tikhon’s nine years in America were important ones in the affairs of the Orthodox Church there. During this period the episcopal seat was removed from San Francisco to New York. During this period Bishop Tikhon became Archbishop Tikhon, the first American Orthodox hierarch to bear that title. These years made a deep impression upon the future Patriarch himself, and as will later be pointed out, the knowledge of the life and religious ideals of American people he acquired there have been very influential in later events in Russia. America has no better friend in Russia than Patriarch Tikhon and he seems especially pleased to maintain his connection with Americans and things American. In view of his unique position and significance for all the Orthodox Church, a brief sketch of the Patriarch as the author last saw him in November 1920, will possibly here be pertinent.

An erect, well-built man in a black robe: grey hair and beard which at first glance make him appear older than his fifty-six years: a firm handclasp and kindly eyes with a decided trace of humor and ever a hint of fire in the back of them: those are your first impressions. That, and his beaming smile. The next thing I thought of was how little he had changed in appearance in the two years since I last visited him. He does not look a day older, and his manner, in marked contrast to so many of my friends in Moscow, is just as calm, unhurried and fearless as though he had not passed through two years of terrible uncertainty and stress. . . .

All those who know Patriarch Tikhon enjoy his well-developed sense of humor. I believe it is this which has helped him retain his poise and cheerfulness through the past three years. I asked him how he had been treated. He told me he had been under “home arrest” for more than a year, had been permitted to go out to conduct service in other churches about once in three months, but aside from this had suffered no personal violence; this in marked contrast to many of the Church’s dignitaries who had been sent to jail or even condemned to execution. “They think,” the Patriarch smilingly remarked, as he patted my hand confidentially, “Oh, he’s an old chap: he’ll die soon. . . we won’t bother him.” “Wait and see,” he went on, shaking his finger, schoolmaster-fashion. “I’ll show them, yet.” And the roguish twinkle in his eyes, remarkably young in contrast to his grey hair, gave you confidence that when the present nightmare has cleared in Russia, her Church’s leader will be found ready to take a most active part in the affairs of the new day.

From The Light of Russia by Donald A. Lowrie, a rare book published by the YMCA in Prague in 1923, shortly before Patriarch Tikhon’s death. Found at

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