Founded at the beginning of the twentieth century in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania, the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk stands today as a witness to the blessing and missionary-hierarchical labors of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, when he was archbishop of America. The monastery, and all of America are ever indebted to this pillar and confessor of the Orthodox faith, who lived in recent times.
Glory Be to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
We greet you on this, the celebration of the life of St. Tikhon’s Monastery. It is a place that has carved out a special corner in the hearts of all Orthodox Christians, not only in America, but in all the World.
We celebrate not only with the Bishops, Priests, and Pilgrims who have joined us this morning, but with All of the Saints: St. Tikhon of Moscow, St. Nikolai of Zhicha, St. John of San Francisco, St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre, and the many others who have walked here before us. They stand here invisibly present with us, praying and glorifying God before His Holy Altar.
It is that same Altar that was consecrated by St. Tikhon of Moscow, who from his Troparion we read was “Chosen by God in a turbulent time, to lay down his life for the Church and its people.”
In a sermon for Orthodoxy Sunday, St. Tikhon described the harsh realities of our earthly life, likening it to “a ship, sailing amidst a ferocious and stormy sea, which is ready to drown it in its waves. The further the ship sails, the harder the waves of life slam against it and the fiercer they attack it! But the harder the waves hit the ship, the further they are thrown away to rejoin the abyss...and disappear.”
This ship can be used to describe St. Tikhon’s Monastery itself; the stable ship that continues to sail through the noise of our personal lives, protecting us from getting caught up and drowning in the noise and evil of this world. Despite the power of these waves, our Monastery ship harbors us and continues to drive forward towards the Heavenly Kingdom which is to come.
Like St. Tikhon at the founding of this Holy Monastery, we too live in turbulent times. But this place, this sacred place where Saints have walked, has been an image of stability and a rock of faith, just as its founders were.
The Location for St. Tikhon’s Monastery, nestled between the Appalachian Mountains, was not chosen by accident. It was chosen for the specific reason of being isolated from the noise of this world.
In the journals of St. Tikhon and Fr. Arseny, they describe their search for the perfect place to plant the vision of monasticism in America:
“We found ourselves in the lap of breathtaking nature amidst the mountains and forests of Pennsylvania. The sound of human voices could no longer be heard, while at the same time the feathery choristers began singing their marvelous praise to the creator...giving rise to the heartfelt feelings of sweetness in our hearts.”
“By the roadside lies an old oak tree, decaying...a century-old witness of these virgin lands. There, one might see a giant boulder that a wandering wild beast must have used to rest upon the deep cold of winter. Now in the summertime, a wild hen makes her stand while looking around on a mourning heavy with dew.
“Amidst this wonderful nature, even a long road seemed to be short.”
It was here, on the ground we stand on this morning, where these two men, with their zeal and farsighted vision, cooperating with divine grace at every step, were able to turn dream into reality for the Orthodox Faithful in this country.
How fitting, that the Patron and founder of this Holy Place both share a common name...Tikhon...which is related to the Russian word for “Quiet”. It is this quiet and isolated monastic experience that has given us all stability.
The silence and peace of these Holy Grounds has formed and influenced so many in our mission to expand the Church in these lands, because it is only when hearts are quieted, that we are truly able to hear our missionary calling.
St. Tikhon said that calling ought to be near and precious to the hearts of All Orthodox Christians. He said that it is our job to faithfully spread the true faith among the non-Orthodox.
It was St. Tikhon who reminded us that it was Christ Himself who said that: “having lit the candle, men do not put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick so that it gives light, not only to shine for a small circle of people, but to all the world.
Sometimes, in our mission to spread the Gospel, the light fades. We fall and are slammed down by the crashing waves of evil and temptation. It is this place...these Holy Grounds...where we come to take refuge and rekindle the light which had faded.
Without the Founders, we would have nothing. Today we honor those who built the ship. We honor figures like Archbishop Arseny and Patriarch Tikhon who established this place. We Honor the captains of the Ship: all of the Bishops, Abbots, Priests, Monastics, benefactors, and faithful that have graced the four walls of the Monastery. It is the prayers and efforts of these people that have allowed the flame of Orthodoxy to burn as bright as it has in this country.
Let us Take this light, let it first burn inside of you, then use it to spread the true faith to all corners of this country.
Through the prayers of St. Tikhon and all the Saints who have walked here before us...intercede before God that He may save our souls.
The Monastery of St. Tikon of Zadonsk
Deacon Gabriel Bilas
The following account of the future Patriarch Tikhon’s visit to the site of the new monastery was written by Hieromonk Arseny (Chagovstev), the monastery’s founder, in the journal, Russian Orthodox American Messenger.
Visit of His Eminence, The Most Reverend Tikhon,
Archbishop of The Aleutians and Alaska to the Eastern States
The days of May 26 and 27 were devoted to a special, extraordinary undertaking of the Archbishop, which involved trips to distant farms in a carriage. The rector of the Mayfield parish, Fr. Hieromonk Arseny, reported to His Eminence that some farmers—Rusyns, who had erected a chapel on their propert—had offered to allocate part of their land and, to some extent, help with expenses in order that a male monastic community could be instituted near their chapel. In addition, there is this consideration. At the sixth convention of the Orthodox Mutual Aid Society, a question had been raised regarding the establishment of an orphanage for the orphaned children of society members. And, following Fr. Arseny's suggestion, the question was asked, Could the establishment of the orphanage be tied to that of the monastic community?
The Archbishop, who held these good intentions close to his heart, undertook a journey to gain familiarity with the conditions and prospects for achieving both tasks. Friday morning at 7 o'clock the horses were readied, and the Most Reverend Vladyka, accompanied by Fr. Arseny, set out on his way in an open carriage. The road lay through the populous and busy town of Carbondale, where the attention of curious passersby was often drawn to the tall traveler distinguished by unusual clothes. Vladyka, having gotten used to all those curious stares and inquiring glances, calmly proceeded on his way. . .
During the ride we had the chance, though from a distance, to admire the new Orthodox church in Simpson, which the Archbishop was seeing for the first time, and where he planned to serve the following Sunday. With joy Vladyka made the sign of the cross, directing his eyes toward the splendid temple—a new flower blossoming in the wilderness. And he gave thanks to God, who is bestowing so much help on our mission which daily grows from strength to strength.
And then the last cottages of the inhabitants of the town and adjacent villages flew past, and the travelers found themselves in the lap of breathtaking nature amidst the mountains and forests of Pennsylvania. At this point, the sound of human voices could no longer be heard, while at the same time the feathery choristers began singing their marvelous praise to the creator, giving rise to heartfelt feelings of sweetness in the hearts of the riders.
Electric trolleys no longer fly past our field of vision, incessantly crossing the road, but streams of life-giving springs appear, crossing our path and evoking quiet feelings. Here, by the roadside, lies an oak tree, decaying—a century-old witness of these virgin lands. And there, one might see a giant boulder which a wandering wild beast must have used to rest upon in the deep cold of winter, where now, in summertime, only a wild hen makes her stand while looking round on a morning heavy with dew.
A little farther on, right above the road, a real waterfall appears in its splendor. From the steep rocky mountain, crystal clear water cascades down noisily. And even here, the people did not hesitate to take advantage of this, by attaching, at the point where the water hits the ground, a wooden conduit leading to a small, natural rock basin, whence they draw the water and water tired horses.
Vladyka Archbishop expressed his admiration by getting out of the carriage and drawing some of the quiet waters with his hand. He drank it, not because of thirst, but to pay tribute to this wonderful spring and leave his Archbishop's blessing on it. Amidst this wonderful nature even a long road seemed to be short.
We soon reached the mountain. Upon crossing the summit, we could see gray houses of our Rusyn farmers, and there soon appeared the three-barred cross on a chapel which was the fruit of the zealous love of a four-member flock of the Orthodox mission. Even from a distance you could make out the bustle of those gathered around the chapel and preparing to meet the distinguished unexpected guest. When the carriage came to the chapel, Vladyka was literally lifted from the carriage and his hands were covered with kisses. In the chapel Vladyka put on his epitrachilion and miter and began to serve a moleben to the Holy Theotokos, since the church was devoted to the birth of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Fr. Arseny was singing on the cleros; the ten candles did not flood the chapel with light, and magnificent chandeliers, lampstands, banners and crosses were nowhere to be seen. There were no rugs covering the floor of the chapel, which is done even in the poorest parishes when greeting bishops. But the soul of everyone was overflowing with the light of unutterable joy and a special solemnity was felt amidst the most humble setting. At the end of moleben the Archbishop offered a brief but expressive word that moved us to tears of tender emotion. After examining the chapel and giving his approval of its erection, Vladyka expressed his desire to walk and survey the surrounding land to determine its suitability for the future cloister. It turned out that the barrenness of the terrain (it was not particularly abundant in natural wealth) and the small size of the donated parcel meant that only a skete community could be considered, while establishing an orphanage was out of the question, as a doctor's call, for instance, costs $3.50.
After accepting a light meal at the humble dwelling of a Rusyn, His Eminence set out on his way back. Having weighed all arguments, both pro and con, he decided to accept the invitation of other Rusyn farmers who lived closer to Mayfield . . .
Early in the morning on Saturday, a trip was again undertaken to survey a new place for the monastic community and orphanage. Here the land was more picturesque; the commute was more convenient, and most importantly, the farmers, from their generosity, agreed to donate fifty acres of land or, if we should agree to this, to match the cost of this land by giving us the right to buy one of the neighboring farms available for sale.
After surveying the offered land quite thoroughly, questioning extensively about everything and having the benefactors repeat their pledge, the Archbishop turned to the east, said a brief prayer asking for God's blessing for this undertaking, and authorized Fr. Arseny to sign a written agreement with the farmers . . . The return journey was spent in conversation about organizing the future cloister, the difficulty of finding worthy people and the fact that God's mercy does not abandon our Orthodox mission, revealing its hand in such a generous gift under such favorable conditions. We had to stop the horses a few times, so that from the height of the Pennsylvania mountains we could feast our eyes on the breathtaking nature that adorns the valleys with beautiful lakes and meadows.