On Spiritual Life, True Heroes, and Higher Art

Selected quotes of Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov)

Today, July 2, 2018, is the sixtieth birthday of Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov, the chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture, and editor-in-chief of the Russian website, Pravoslavie.ru.

Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov. Photo: Vladimir Khodakov/Pravoslavie.ru Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov. Photo: Vladimir Khodakov/Pravoslavie.ru

Dear Vladyko!

One day you said, “The life of a priest, a monk, a Christian is the most real, most exalted creativity in the world that man can achieve.” And the Lord arranged it so that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people have been able to partake of your creativity both in this mystical sense as well as the traditional sense, getting to know you through your book, Everyday Saints, the film Byzantine Lesson, your historical exhibitions, and of course through Sretensky Monastery and your publications on our website.

The Lord undoubtedly gave you a gift: to find the right words for weak, egotistical, and spiritually mixed up, twentieth century man. They are words that awaken Christian conscience and longing for Heaven. And it is clear from this that you multiply this “Poet of heaven and earth”1 talent with a vengeance, returning to the Creator what is most valuable in this world—developed Christian souls.

May the merciful Lord grant you strength of body and soul, wisdom and divine help in carrying all of your many ecclesiastical obediences, in ruling the ancient Pskov metropolia, and in bringing to fruition all your good beginnings for the benefit of Christ’s Church!

Many, many years!

With sincere respect and love,
the brothers of Sretensky Monastery,
the students of Sretensky Seminary,
the staff of Pravoslavie.ru and OrthoChristian.com,
and all those who labor in Sretensky Monastery


On this day we are publishing selected thoughts and sayings of Metropolitan Tikhon gathered from all of his books and public appearances over recent years.



Don’t live life in vain!

If a man has not come to terms with eternity in his own life, it means that he will not come to terms with it at all. And then his life will have been lived in vain. If a man has not asked himself these “cursed” questions, according to Dostoevsky’s famous expression, and has not tried with all his strength to answer them honestly, then that man has done absolutely nothing in his life. Even if he has planted a thousand trees, built entire cities and given birth to dozens of children. Christ leaves us these words: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matt. 16:26).

From a sermon on Pascha

Man’s soul is alive as long as it seeks God

Man’s soul is alive when it seeks God. Even if you are an archimandrite, a bishop or metropolitan, if your search for God stops, the soul begins to die.

On priests’ divorces, soviet songs, and the crash of education.

How to enliven the soul

In the Holy Scripture it is stated very clearly how to enliven the soul, how to make the soul young and alive again. Seek God and your soul shall live. Seek God no matter what! Seek Him stubbornly and insistently. And then the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ will be fulfilled: Seek and ye shall find.

But if the search for God, the thirst for God, the desire to comprehend His goes away, this is the cause for very serious concern. We have to labor with all possible means to renew this desire in our souls. Without this, nothing good will come. Or, in the best case, we will have to wait, like the parched earth waits for saving rain, for trials that shake up the soul, sickness, serious wounds and temptations.

Cynicism is an Illness”

The truth stays in man’s memory forever.

Perhaps the fearless truth that he had spoken to them, no matter how incomprehensible and bitter it had seemed at first hearing, had taken seed and remained in their memories. And that see would remain until such time as the person either accepted it or rejected I forever. Either choice was completely up to each person.

Everyday Saints

Remember your first love”

The most joyful thing in spiritual life is to discover something new. Remember what joy you felt when you woke up on Sunday morning for Liturgy, how you voraciously read the holy fathers and ever discovered something new. If the Gospel doesn’t reveal anything to us it only means that we have closed ourselves to the discovery of something new. Remember the words of Christ to the Church of Philadelphia, Remember your first love.

Cynicism is an illness of the professional Orthodox”


Archimandrite Alipius (Voronov) Archimandrite Alipius (Voronov)
The Lord doesn’t like cowardice

The Lord does not like cowardice. This spiritual law was once revealed to me by Father Raphael, but in turn that law had been passed to him by Father Alipius. In one of his sermons Father Alipius had preached: “During the war I was a witness to how certain soldiers were so worried they might die of hunger that they would carry little bags of crumbs on their back. So worried were some about their little bags of bread crumbs, so eager were they to prolong their life rather than fight the enemy, that these people were invariably the first to be cut down by enemy fire. They perished along with their bread crumbs. But those who were willing to strip their backs if need be, and to die to fight the enemy—those were the ones who survived.”

Everyday Saints

There is a lack of resolve

Once Fr. Seraphim (Rosenberg) started talking about monasticism. He said that the greatest problem with modern monasticism is the lack of resolve. Probably this can be said not only of monastics but also of many of our modern Christians. Resolve, courage, and the spiritual gratitude that is connected with them are noticeably waning. But if people would understand throughout their lives that the most important thing is to, regardless of any obstacles or temptations, go to God, to be faithful to Him, then they would not waiver in their faith to the point of losing it.

Cynicism is an illness of the professional Orthodox”

The ancient evil will always persecute us

After all, upon taking monastic vows and becoming a priest, many things change in our lives, but not everything. The ancient evil that always dwells within us will always haunt us, and will never quit trying to steal in upon us in order to accomplish the Devil’s main goal—to steal our soul. Only ceaseless courageous battle with evil, solely for the remarkable goal that is incomprehensible to many—the purity of our soul—will justify us before God. But if Christ does not see this struggle within us, He turns away from us, from that priest, monk, or layperson who has turned from Him, leaving him alone with what he has chosen for himself. And that choice is the same as it always was—insatiable pride and desire for the pleasures of this world. As time passes, sooner or later these passions will subvert or even pervert someone who has forgotten about God. Then these passions reveal their true horrible dangers Then the Sea of Galilee will rise up, and from its abyss the enrage swine who were drowned long ago will race ashore and hurl themselves on the unfortunate who thought there could be any compromise between them and God.

Everyday Saints

The upbringing of children is a great and daily creative process. It is the parents’ hard work and constant, wise attention to their children. I have many times had to confess people on their deathbeds. Their confessions are not about not having earned a million dollars, built a luxurious home, or been successful in business. People in their final hours are first of all full of regret for not having done some good, not having helped or supported their family, friends, or even incidental acquaintances. The second thing that torments almost everyone before death is that they gave so little time to their children.

Non-reading Readers and Other Phenomena of Life


The Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church in Sretensky Monastery. The Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church in Sretensky Monastery.
The Lord is waiting for our faithfulness

Our Lord expects faithfulness from us… Faithfulness to your commitment to love above all else in this world our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, and to prefer nothing and no one else in this world to Him.

Everyday Saints

What does absolute truth mean to me

For me, absolute truth, absolute history is Holy Scripture. One to Metropolitan Philaret came a glamorous society lady who said (she also referred to natural sciences): “How can you believe that Jonas was swallowed by a whale? We know that a whale eats plankton, and that it’s impossible for one to swallow a man!” But Metropolitan Philaret answered, “Even if it were written in the Bible that Jonah swallowed the whale, I would believe it.”

A real and true story.
Mechanisms and formulations of images

The truth is in the Church

Truth on earth abides only in the Church.

Everyday Saints

On Church Bolsheviks

Extreme church liberals, like their secular peers, are on fire it would seem with the laudable desire to change for the better everything their enlightened minds deem improper in the Church. You know, St. Joseph of Optina once said, “Zeal that desires to uproot all evil is in fact the very worse evil.” Having begun with the demands for radical ritual innovations, they inevitably move on to the revision of dogmas. Their most charismatic leaders insist that nowadays it is ridiculous and senseless to believe in the immortality of the human soul, that Moslems are, as it turns out, the same as Christians, that the Holy Scripture was written without any particular action of divine grace, and they call the belief of Orthodox Christians that the Gospels and our other sacred books were written at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (“all Scripture is God-inspired.”—Apostle Paul) “grandmother tales”. They allow themselves to make other statements no less unacceptable to the Orthodox consciousness. There is no need to doubt or deceive ourselves—these are the realest Church Bolsheviks, the spiritual brothers of the merciless revolutionaries in leather jackets. They have no pity for anything we have.

A society that doesn’t honor its heroes is doomed

The theology of ecumenism is depressive

The theology of ecumenism is depressive and contrived, and on the whole it is lower than any criticism. Meanwhile the theology of anti-ecumenism is inspired and supported by patristic tradition. Furthermore, many of today’s Orthodox have been introduced to the holy fathers precisely through anti-ecumenist polemic. So we can boldly confirm that the theology of anti-ecumenism is, if you will, the “theology of the masses”.

On the meeting with God, “problems” of Christianity, politics, and literature.


Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov. Photo: Anton Pospelov Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov. Photo: Anton Pospelov
How to act toward those who offend us

Some say, “I am ready to forgive that person, but only if he comes to me himself and asks for forgiveness.” This is absolutely unchristian. No matter what we might encounter—insults, slander, or some kind of physical attack—we have an answer. And this answer was given to us by the Lord. He said, “If you are my disciples, do as I do. And the Lord ascends the cross and forgives His crucifiers. That is what Christ’s disciples do.

Interview on “Parsuna”, a television program by Vladimir Legoida

Hatred for another person is murder

The Orthodox Christian should in every way oppose not only hatred for his ill-wishers and enemies, but even any feelings of dislike. Because hatred for another person is murder. Thus does Christ teach us. Therefore I will perfectly sincerely love my benefactors and pray for them.

If Serebrennikov asked to meet with my I would not turn him down.

The everyday cross of non-judgment

We are called everyday to carry our cross of non-judgment. He who can understand this, take it in and fulfill it with faith in Christ will be holy. “Judge not and you shall not be judged,” says our Lord Jesus Christ. That is all. If you don’t want to be judged by the Fearful Judge about Whom we know, about Whom we are speaking, then don’t judge other people.

The Cross of Non-Judgment


From humility even the simplest of sinners comes closer to God.

Everyday Saints

If a man does not humble himself, he will never become a monk. God will not reveal himself to him, as the Lord, as He Who Is what He Is, and not as in books and stories of other people, but through personal revelation and experience. Without humility, years and decades will be wasted, and all of the highest ecclesiastical ranks will bring him only condemnation: the priesthood, an abbacy, a bishropric . . .

Everyday Saints

It is only in that way, through mysterious humility incomprehensible to the world, that a true Christian comes to one of the two greatest revelations in life. The first of these revelations is that one must discover the truth about oneself, and se oneself as one truly is. You must meet your own self. And believe me it’ the most important acquaintance. A vast number of people live their live never even bothering to discover themselves at all. Sometimes we onl have the vaguest notions or fantasies of who we are, and so dependin upon our own vanity, pride, resentments, and ambitions we see nothing. But the truth, however bitter it might seem to us, is that we are ‘wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

Everyday Saints


A meeting with Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) in the Library of International Literature. Photo: Anatoly Goryainov / Pravoslavie.ru A meeting with Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) in the Library of International Literature. Photo: Anatoly Goryainov / Pravoslavie.ru

On criticism of the Church

I will say right away that I have a positive attitude about criticism of the Church. I believe that even criticism that is unjust from my point of view is still useful and important. It always invigorates and gives you the chance to look at yourself critically and without affection. I have never, not once tried to dispute any criticism of the Church. Any criticism, I repeat, is useful.

But when the allegations don’t concern us today, the situation is different. You can criticize us as much as you want. We truly are different, including not living up to the high calling of a priest. We listen to this with humility and with an understanding that even if it’s not on such a wide scale, there are still grounds for such criticism. But when we’re talking about our history, especially the history of a hundred years ago, when the Russian Church gave us a whole host of New Martyrs, and not just to Russia and to the Russian Church, but to the entire Christian world, then the handling of these events is completely unique. Here, I think, we need to try to dot the “i.”

A meeting with Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov)
in the Library of International Literature


Fasting is a beautiful and great act for the soul, but also for one’s health too. Let us recall how the lives of our beloved saints sound: “This ascetic in a waterless desert, where there was no one, neither ate nor drank, he ate food only every three days, was weary from the cold and frost, and at the age of 107 peacefully departed to the Lord.” This is the refrain of their lives.

The Life of a Christian is the Highest Creativity in the World”

We await the Dread Judgment

There are people who will remain mysteries for all of us until the very Dread Judgment. Indeed, as a matter of fact, everyone will remain a mystery for us until the Dread Judgment, and we will learn many interesting things about ourselves, our loved ones, and about historical characters at the Dread Judgment.

A meeting with Archimandrite Tikhon at Donskoy Monastery


A true spiritual father

A genuine spiritual father, not feigned and playing the role of an elder, will counsel, persuade, and sometimes insist, but will never repress the will of a Christian. But it is necessary to run from a priest who insistently requires unquestioning obedience as from a demon.

Everyday Saints

The gift of the novitiate

True novices receive an invaluable gift from God—holy carelessness, which is better and sweeter than any other freedom.

Everyday Saints



Candle stands”

In the 1990s, everyone was mocking non-Churched people, who gravely stood at service in Orthodox churches. They diligently but awkwardly crossed themselves, bowed out of place, and obviously had no idea what was going on. But I must confess, for me it was always gratifying to see these “candle stands,” как саркастически честили их остряки. I was happy for them, because they presented themselves before the Lord God, albeit awkwardly, with zeal and humility. And this never goes unnoticed. Even the most unskilled worshipers necessarily receive special spiritual gifts from God, will make discoveries personally intended for them, which the smart alecs and mockers won’t see even in dreams.

Everyday Saints


I would not be too dramatic about the situation with uncatechized people. Of course, thank God, much is being done, including by our monastery, by our publishing department, to instruct people in the Faith. And this is essential. But if you only knew how many people I have met who are uneducated in religious concepts, who have not taken dilettantish catechetical classes, but sincerely love God, know Him, and are faithful to Him! It is such people that God seeks.

The Truth, Even if Bitter, Will Triumph With Time”

True ascetics

I myself see remarkable podvizhniks, simple laypeople, who teach and save me by humbling me, and showing me how it is possible to live in our time in a truly ascetic way, as Christians. These are ordinary people—women, youths, girls, and grown men. Not to mention the grandmothers, who read such prayer rules that when a monk hears about them—I tell you honestly—he feels uncomfortable. Moreover, they have been fulfilling these rules regularly for decades, with the absolute conviction that they are doing nothing special! A babushka reads so many kathismas for her eldest son, so many for the second, and so many for her youngest daughter. Then she says 1,500 Jesus prayers, just to get a feeling, if only a little, of her own sinfulness. Then the particular prayers of her prayer group, and an Akathist—how could she do without an Akathist?! I am telling you about the real prayer rule of a real parishioner. And such ascetics are innumerable! Besides this, they also work, go to the store, wash and iron clothes, and raise their children and grandchildren. But they are not proud or vain, they consider themselves to be nothing, and are ready at any moment to serve their neighbor. Just associating with such people is amazingly helpful for the faithless to find hope and resolve.

Cynicism is an Illness”


Not from an excess of the gift of spiritual discernment

It has become bon ton in certain Orthodox circles to say that a person has "over-prayed": he reads a prayer rule, canons, kathismas, and is just too pious. This is pronounced like a diagnosis. But we are taking the role of judge upon ourselves, for the most part not out of an abundance of spiritual discernment, but rather out of our own weak faith, slothfulness, and self-love.

Cynicism is an Illness”

An internal enemy power

The enemy power, which gathers momentum through spiritually tepid Christians within the Church, is infinitely more dangerous than any outward force, more dangerous than persecutions. We teach our students to never, under any circumstances, become "Orthodox comme il faut." After all, they themselves do not notice how they lose their faith, how they become careerists, and how all values in their lives completely change.

Cynicism is an Illness”




Cynicism and Christianity are not compatible. At the basis of cynicism, no matter how it tries to justify itself, is only one thing: unbelief.

Cynicism is an Illness”

Pastoral burnout”

Today, in our age of seeking comfort everywhere and in everything, there arises almost an entire “theology,” firmly justifying priestly “burnouts,” even proclaiming it as a sign of special “honesty” and a kind of sublime and subtle spiritual constitution. All arguments against excusing such “burnouts,” leaving the priesthood or monasticism (and in fact, arguments against the legitimization of such practices) are answered by the exasperation: “Well, he got burned out! There’s nothing you can do here. And don’t you dare condemn or blame anyone for this!”

Everyday Heroes


Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov. Photo: Anatoly Goryainov / Pravoslavie.ru Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov. Photo: Anatoly Goryainov / Pravoslavie.ru
We are a bad example

Today, however, prosperity with relation to Orthodox Faith has become no small trial for Christians. Do you remember in the book of Revelations, Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17)? Our faith has become scarce, and therefore many people get tired of being Orthodox from looking at us. They are still going on the inertia from their first love; they still remember how much they received in the Church, and hope yet to receive grace.

Cynicism is an Illness”

Cut off occasion from them which desire occasion

There is an immutable spiritual law that in the problems that arise before you, you must seek the reasons not without, but within your own self. Even realizing that there are external forces extremely aggressive towards the Church, we must first of all be stricter towards ourselves. The apostle Paul says, Cut off occasion from them which desire occasion (2 Cor. 11:2).

Something Precious Out of Nothing”

Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Porkhov
Compiled by Anton Pospelov
Translation by OrthoChristian.com


1 “Poet—from the Greek piitis, which also means “creator”.

to our mailing list

* indicates required