The Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
On September 26/October 9, the Orthodox Church commemorates the 1989 glorification of New Hiero-confessor Tikhon (Bellavin), patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. St. Tikhon is of course best remembered as the first Patriarch of Russia, elected in 1918, since the 1721 abolition of the patriarchate by Peter I. He guided the Church as a firm and steady anchor during the early years of the communist regime, suffering imprisonment in Donskoy Monastery from 1922 to 1923 for opposing the government’s confiscation of Church property. He entered into repose on the great feast of Annunciation in 1925 and is considered a confessor of the Orthodox faith.
Before taking up the yoke of arch-pastor for the entire Russian nation, St. Tikhon served as a missionary bishop in the burgeoning American mission. He was appointed as bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska in 1898 and he traveled throughout America, visiting parishes, comforting the faithful, and consecrating new parishes. In 1905 he was raised to the dignity of archbishop and he relocated the center of the diocese to New York, before being called back to Russia in 1907.
One of his great and lasting achievements in America is surely the founding of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA in 1905, named for his own patron, St. Tikhon the Wonderworker of Zadonsk. St. Tikhon’s is the oldest Orthodox monastery in America and throughout its 110 years, while it has known highs and lows, it has become a center of Orthodoxy in America, offering up countless liturgies and prayers as sweet incense before the throne of God, enjoying the presence of many saints, and, along with the seminary established in 1938, molding and refining innumerable servants of Christ’s Church in the form of monastics, clergymen, and hierarchs. Every year the monastic, seminary, and parish community of St. Tikhon’s commemorates the Sunday nearest to St. Tikhon’s October 9th feast as its “Founder’s Day” with a festive liturgy and meal, to which all are warmly welcomed.
St. Tikhon’s is home to a rich history and a great many “treasures” of Orthodoxy, some known, some relatively unknown, which stand as a testament to the prayers and labors of our American apostle, St. Tikhon, and his continuing heavenly protection.
St. Alexis Toth
St. Alexis was a Uniate priest from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, assigned to serve a parish in Minneapolis in 1889. Upon arrival in America he found the Latin bishop quite hostile to Catholics of the Byzantine Rite, and found himself without a parish. By God’s providence this led to his reception into the holy Orthodox Church on March 25, 1891, after which he worked tirelessly, delivering fiery sermons throughout all of America to bring thousands of Uniates into the true Church. He reposed in 1909, being laid to rest in the monastery cemetery at St. Tikhon’s. Seven years later his body was relocated to a special crypt built behind the Church. Today his relics lie in a reliquary on the right kliros in the monastery church, where all are welcome to venerate and pray to this faithful missionary of Orthodoxy in America.
The idea of founding a monastery on American soil belongs actually to Hieromonk Arseny (Chagovtsev), later the archbishop of Winnipeg, Canada. He arrived in America in 1902 to serve the parish of St. John the Baptist in Mayfield, PA, just a few miles from the future site of St. Tikhon’s Monastery. He envisioned a monastery to serve the spiritual needs of the monastic clergy serving in America, and he eagerly promoted the idea to all who would listen. In 1905 he sought out land with St. Tikhon and they eventually purchased the present property in South Canaan, PA, with Fr. Arseny becoming the monastery’s first superior. St. Tikhon provided the necessary episcopal oversight and spiritual guidance, as well as financial support, while credit for the concept and physical labor in establishing St. Tikhon’s Monastery belongs to Archbishop Arseny.
After more service in America, Canada, Russia, and Serbia, Archbishop Arseny returned to Canada as the bishop of Winnipeg in 1926. In 1937 he retired to the monastery which he had founded, and the following year he founded the pastoral school which became St. Tikhon’s Seminary.
Archbishop Arseny, locally venerated as a saint in the Canadian diocese, is buried in a simple grave next to the chapel in the monastery cemetery.
Metropolitan Leonty faithfully served the Church in America for many decades. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1905 and became one of St. Tikhon’s closest advisors. He became a bishop in 1933 and the primate of the American Metropolia in 1950, serving until his death in 1965. During his tenure the first English-language parishes were opened and various pan-Orthodox initiatives were undertaken, including efforts to reunite the various Russian jurisdictions in the diaspora. He is remembered as a man of humility, prayerfulness, meekness, dignity, kindness, generosity, forbearance, thoughtfulness, sense of humor, vision, erudition and wisdom. He is buried behind the church at St. Tikhon’s, and is considered a saint by many.
* * *
St. Tikhon’s Monastery also knows the blessing of the relics of many other saints, including its revered founder St. Tikhon of Moscow, its patron St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, St. Panteleimon, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, St. Raphael (Hawaweeny), and many others, notably including a piece of the True Cross.
She Who is Quick to Hear
The monastery church is home to a miraculous icon of the Mother of God “She Who is Quick to Hear” which hangs on the left side of the iconostasis. Upon its founding in 1905 the monastery was gifted with a copy of the miraculous icon of the same name of Dochariou Monastery on Mt. Athos, which is commemorated on November 9. This copy has also become known as a miraculous icon, through which the Mother of God especially deigns to help those couples who are unable to conceive. The icon, radiant in its beauty, travels throughout America to bring comfort, healing, and peace to the Orthodox faithful.
St. Tikhon’s is also home to a miraculous icon of St. Anna painted in the Holy Land which began to stream myrrh in 2004. Subsequently traveling throughout America, St. Anna is also known for helping couples conceive, and also many miraculous healings. ]
In the Fall of 2012 Archimandrite Athanasy (Mastalsky), the owner of the miraculous icon, relocated to St. Tikhon’s Monastery. St. Anna is not currently streaming myrrh but she continues to emit a heavenly fragrance and to answer prayers. A Moleben to St. Anna is prayed in the monastery church every Sunday, and bottles of myrrh from the icon are available at the monastery.
We recently published an interview on the miraculos icon of St. Anna with Fr. Athanasy, conducted by Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green.
WHERE SAINTS HAVE WALKED
In addition to Sts. Tikhon, Arseny, and Alexis, St. Tikhon’s has been blessed with the ministry and prayers of several other venerable American saints.
St. Raphael of Brooklyn
St. Raphael (Hawaweeny) was born in Lebanon in 1860 and received his theological training in Halki and Russia. He came to America in 1895 to assist St. Tikhon, heading up the Syro-Arab Orthodox mission in America. On the third Sunday in Great Lent, 1904 he became the first Orthodox bishop consecrated in America. In 1905 St. Raphael traveled to St. Tikhon’s Monastery to dedicate the hundreds of acres upon which it sits, serving also the monastery’s first Divine Liturgy. He was canonized at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 2000, and his relics currently lie on the property of the Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA.
St. Alexander Hotovitsky
St. Alexander was born in today’s western Ukraine and was ordained to the priesthood in San Francisco in 1896. He undertook vast missionary labors with the blessing of St. Tikhon both in America and later in Russia. He served as editor of the American Orthodox Messenger and he visited St. Tikhon’s Monastery on several occasions, leaving an intriguing account of the 1906 pilgrimage and consecration. He later served as the rector of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, and was arrested by communist authorities in 1937 which led to his martyric death.
St. Nicholai of Zhicha
St. Nicholai is one of the greatest saints of the twentieth century. Known as the New Chrysostom for his penetrating preaching, St. Nicholai brought much comfort to the suffering Serbian Church during the years of the Second World War. He too suffered, being imprisoned for two years at the Dachau concentration camp. St. Nicholai also served the Church in America, living at St. Tikhon’s Monastery from 1951 until 1956 and teaching at the seminary, for which he served as rector in the 1955-1956 school year. It was in the St. Tikhon’s Seminary building that this giant of Orthodoxy reposed on March 18, 1956 under suspect circumstances. The seminary chapel is dedicated to his memory.
Fr. Vasily (Philipoff)
One of St. Tikhon’s Monastery’s most intriguing “treasures” is the monk Archimandrite Vasily (Philipoff) who lived the quiet monastic life there from 1934 until his repose on March 29, 1986. Fr. Vasily seems to be mostly unknown—it is nearly impossible to find any information about him on the internet, but those who knew him in his decades of prayer and struggle at the monastery remember a saintly man. He served in various obediences but is best remembered as the bread baker for the monastery and for the orphanage that used to function also at St. Tikhon’s. He communed as often as possible and always gave simple and direct advice: pray, work hard, be faithful in Church attendance, obey God’s laws, and never hold anger against another man, and by all accounts, he lived his life thusly.
Igumen Gregory (Zaiens) who lived several years at St. Tikhon’s with Fr. Vasily recalls:
As to his spiritual life, Fr. Vasily could be described as a pillar of Orthodox piety—blagochestie. He held that which was God's in honor; he had a holy, blessed, humble, fearless fear of God. He had assimilated this as a natural, organic part of his being. To live with such a person is a great lesson in the Orthodox way of life even if one is never given a word of instruction. There are a few small words which I remember that I could pass on. One time I asked Father: “What is the meaning of humility of wisdom?” He replied, “When you repent, you become humble and then God gives you wisdom.” He once said in a sermon, “Some people say that if you read the Bible too much you will lose your mind. That is true. You will lose your carnal mind and get a spiritual one.”
Once after the evening service I was going to venerate the central icon in the Church. Fr. Vasily who had served was approaching the icon so I waited. As he neared the icon and I looked at him his physical appearance changed so that he physically looked somewhat smaller than he actually was. He looked extremely humble and it seemed as though he was on fire with prayer.
Archimandrite Vasily is buried in the cemetery at St. Tikhon’s where pilgrims can come to seek his intercession.
MUSEUM AND ICON REPOSITORY
St. Tikhon’s is also home to a great many beautiful artifacts in its museum and icon repository, which traces the history of Orthodoxy in America and houses icons, vestments, and other Church items that date back several hundred years. The oldest of the 400 icons is from the fifteenth century.
Among the most notable articles in the museum are the a Gospel book gifted by Tsar Michael Romanov to a convent in Russia which dates to 1636, the mantia of St. Tikhon of Moscow from his time as the metropolitan of Moscow, vestments of St. Nicholai Velimirovich, and hand-written letters of St. Alexis Toth.
The museum is an evangelical effort as many non-Orthodox come out of an interest in art or history and learn about our holy Orthodox faith. The museum is open by appointment to all who are interested.
* * *
The monastery brotherhood, which has known sixty bishops, currently under its sixteenth abbot, Schema-Archimandrite Sergius (Bowyer), is growing and continues to serve the Church in America and beyond through its many endeavors including the St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press and Bookstore, iconography, and support of the training of new clergy in the seminary through providing several professors as well as the church in which the seminary community prays and is shaped.
Of course the main task of a monastery is always to pray, which is a constant emphasis of Abbot Sergius. Perhaps the greatest treasure the monastery offers to America and to the world is the daily serving of the Divine Liturgy since 1905. Few places in America offer the holy Eucharist daily, and certainly none for as long as St. Tikhon’s. The grace and power of the Divine Liturgy is inestimable, and the presence of Christ that is manifest in holy Communion sustains the world.
St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary sits on a quiet property in north-eastern Pennsylvania surrounded by nature ideal for fostering prayer, humility and love for God. St. Tikhon’s is indeed a center of Orthodoxy in America, ever being offered for the benefit of others who are always welcome to go on pilgrimage to experience the grace and many “treasures” of St. Tikhon’s—St. Tikhon of Moscow’s offering to America.
* * *