In 1724, in the village of Korotsk, in the Novgorod diocese of Russia, Sabellius Kirillov and his wife had a baby boy, who they named Timothy. Timothy’s father was a cantor. Unfortunately, when Timothy was still young, his father died. The family was very poor after Sabellius’ death. Timothy’s mother planned to send Timothy to live in the home of their neighbor, who was a coachman, but Timothy’s brother Peter stopped her. Since the family was so poor, Timothy had to work outside of the home, even while he was still very young. He would work all day just to get a piece of bread to eat.
When Timothy was 13, he was sent to a school near the Novgorad archbishop’s home. He paid his way through school by working with the vegetable gardeners. Three years later, God provided a grant that allowed Timothy to attend the Novgorod Seminary. He did really well in school, and became a teacher at the seminary after graduation. He taught Greek, then rhetoric and philosophy. Four years later, Timothy was tonsured with the name Tikhon and he became the seminary prefect.
A year later, Tikhon was transferred to Tver, where he became the archimandrite of Zheltikov Monastery. He worked there until he was made rector of the Tver Seminary and placed in charge of the Otroch Monastery.
Fr. Tikhon was named as one of eight candidates for bishop of Novgorod. In the process of discerning who should be bishop, three times the lot fell in Tikhon’s favor. So, on May 13, 1761, Fr. Tikhon was consecrated as the bishop of Novgorod.
Two years later, Bishop Tikhon was transferred to Voronezh. While he worked in that diocese, the bishop encouraged his people by his life, his guidance, and the books that he wrote. He did what he could to make sure that every priest, deacon, and monk had a copy of the New Testament. He encouraged them to read it every day. He also encouraged them to be very reverent when they were performing their holy duties. He worked very hard to build up the churches in his diocese, to convert a school into a monastery, and to help pastors realize how important it was for people to be educated. He worked so hard that sometimes he did not have time to sleep! Because of all of this work, by 1767, Bishop Tikhon’s poor health forced him to stop being the bishop. He went to the Tolshevsk Monastery to rest and recover.
After almost two years of recovery, Bishop Tikhon went to the monastery of the Theotokos in Zadonsk. While he was there, he taught people about the Christian life. He was so wise. But Bishop Tikhon did not just tell people how to be a good monastic! Instead of telling them, he showed them with his own life how to do so! Almost every day, he went to the church and served or read or sang in the choir. Later, in humility he stopped doing those things that made him visible. Instead, he would just stand quietly in the altar during the divine services, reverently making the sign of the cross. Outside of church, Bishop Tikhon spent a lot of time reading about the saints and reading the writings of the Holy Fathers. He memorized the whole Psalter so that he could recite or sing the Psalms while he traveled from one place to another.
When he was healthy again, Bishop Tikhon considered going back to Novgorod. He missed his flock there and wanted to help them, and they invited him to return. But his elder, Elder Aaron, would not allow it. Bishop Tikhon did not argue with Elder Aaron even though he wanted to go. Instead, he tore up the invitation to return and continued quietly serving at the monastery. During these years, he kept writing. He wrote “A Spiritual Treasury, Gathered from the World” in 1770 and “On True Christianity” in 1776.
Throughout his life, Bishop Tikhon lived very simply. He slept on straw and used a sheepskin coat for his blanket. When workers laughed at him for his simple lifestyle, he would calmly accept their laughter and say, “It is pleasing to God that even the monastery workers mock me, and I deserve it, because of my sins.” One day a fool hit Bishop Tikhon on the cheek and told him not to be so haughty. Instead of being angry or dismissing the fool because he was a fool, the bishop was thankful for the reminder. For the rest of his life, he gave the fool 3 kopeks every day, out of gratitude. The bishop often said, “Forgiveness is better than revenge.”
Bishop Tikhon loved the common people and did whatever he could to help them. Sometimes that meant going to their landowners and helping them become more compassionate to the poor who lived on their land. Other times he gave his own money to the poor. He ended up giving away all of his retirement money! Gifts that his admirers sent to the bishop were also given to the poor.
Near the end of his life, Bishop Tikhon saw visions of the Theotokos and the Apostles Peter and Paul. He was given the ability to prophesy that Russia would win over France in 1812. His attendants reported other wonders performed by the bishop, as well, including seeing him transformed in prayer, with his face glowing. In his humility, he asked them not to talk about it.
Bishop Tikhon knew that he would repose on a Sunday, and he was given a three-year warning before his repose. This is how he learned about it: he had a vision of a beautiful meadow. He wanted to go into the meadow, but was told “In three years you may enter. For now, continue your labors.” After seeing the vision, the bishop stayed in his cell much of the time, and received communion frequently. Not long before he died, he had a dream of a tall, twisty ladder. He heard a command that he should climb the ladder. He was afraid at first, because he was ill and weak. But he told his friend Cosmas, “when I started to go climb, the people standing around the ladder lifted me higher and higher, up to the very clouds.” Cosmas told him that he thought perhaps the ladder was the way to the Heavenly Kingdom, and that the people helping him climb were all the souls that Bishop Tikhon had helped by his advice. Now they were helping him into heaven as they remembered him. The bishop, crying, agreed that he had had the same thought and that he would soon depart this life. And he did, on Sunday, August 13, 1783. He was only 59.
Almost 53 years later, on May 14, 1864, Bishop Tikhon’s relics were uncovered and found to be incorrupt. He was elevated to sainthood by the Holy Orthodox Church on Sunday August 13, 1861.
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, please pray for our salvation!
Sources: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/73196.htm and https://oca.org/saints/lives/2011/08/13/102287-st-tikhon-the-bishop-of-voronezh-and-wonderworker-of-zadonsk-and
Here are some ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn about (and from) St. Tikhon:
Listen to this 2-minute “Saint of the Day” podcast about St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, to help your students learn about his life: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday/aug_13_-_st._tikhon_of_zadonsk
This well-known quote by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk is a great focus for your class, after having heard the story of his life: “As a merchant from various lands gathers various goods, and brings them into his house and treasures them there, likewise a Christian can collect from the world soul-saving thoughts, and by collecting them in the treasury of his heart can form his soul.”
Share the quote with your students, then hand each of them a copy of this printable pdf of a treasure chest: http://coolest-free-printables.com/2013/02/03/printable-treasure-chest/ Talk together about the quote. What did St. Tikhon mean, “soul-saving thoughts?” And where in the world can we find these? Spend a period of time brainstorming and sharing thoughts that you all may wish to collect in the treasury of your heart. They can include Holy Scriptures, songs from the church, quotes from the church fathers, etc. Have your students write (or draw) their favorites into the treasure chest, to help them remember that they are collecting that treasure. (Alternate idea: instead of using the pdf treasure chest, purchase simple boxes or hinged treasure chests – available for about a dollar at craft stores – and have your students decorate them. Throughout the year, allow students to add a quote or scripture from each lesson to their “treasury.” At the end of the Sunday Church School year, they can review the SCS year by looking through their treasure chest and remembering the lesson associated with each insert. Send your students home with their treasury at the end of the Sunday Church School year, with a copy of this quote from St. Tikhon and the admonishment to continue to collect these kinds of thoughts in their hearts for the rest of their life!)
Did you notice, in the story of the of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, that he had the entire Psalter memorized? Well, guess what? He had also memorized the entire New Testament! May his life encourage us to continue our efforts to teach our students to memorize the scriptures, as well! After studying his life and telling the students about his broad memorization of scripture, select a passage to help the children to memorize. Need ideas for how to do so? Visit our blog post on that subject! https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/on-scripture-memorization-part-2/
St. Tikhon has been called “The Chrysostom of the Russian Church” because of his many straightforward and beautiful writings and teachings. Here are a few of his teachings. Share some of them with middle-years (or older) students, and discuss them together!
“Prayer does not consist merely in standing and bowing your body or in reading written prayers….it is possible to pray at all times, in all places, with mind and spirit. You can lift up your mind and heart to God while walking, sitting, working, in a crowd and in solitude. His door is always open, unlike man’s. We can always say to Him in our hearts, ‘Lord have mercy.’” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
“In going to church, think that thou art going to the house of the King of Heaven, where with fear and joy one ought to stand as in heaven before the King of Heaven. While standing in church, do not look around to the sides and do not look at how someone is standing and praying, lest thou be condemned with the Pharisee, since thou didst not come to judge others, but to ask for mercy for thyself from God the Judge and Knower of hearts. Gaze with compunction toward the altar alone, where the holy sacrifice is offered. More than anything else, beware of laughter and conversations, for whoever laughs or converses while standing in church does not render honor to the holy place and tempts others and prevents others from praying.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
“If we want, Christian, to have our heart filled with divine love we must first empty them of the love of this world, its frivolous and sinful customs and then turn our hearts to the one God, our only good and happiness and eternal beatitude.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
“Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbours, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness or unforgiveness of your sins, then, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how serious it is.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
“As fire is not extinguished by fire, so anger is not conquered by anger, but is made even more inflamed. But meekness often subdues even the most beastly enemies, softens them and pacifies them.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
“True Christians live in this world as travelers, pilgrims, and sojourners, and they look ever toward their heavenly homeland with faith and with the eyes of the soul, and they strive to reach it. You should also be a pilgrim and sojourner in this world and constantly look toward that homeland and strive to obtain it, and so the world with its enticements and lusts will become abhorrent to you. Whoever seeks eternal blessedness and desires it and strives to reach it will despise everything temporal, lest while seeking the temporal he be deprived of the eternal.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
May his words bless and challenge us to follow Christ more fully!
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk once said, “…love of God cannot exist without joy, and whenever a man feels the sweetness of the love of God within his heart, he rejoices in God.” Talk together with your Sunday Church School students about this quote. How did St. Tikhon show this to be true in his own life? How can we live in such a way as to “feel the sweetness of the love of God” in our hearts? Have each student illustrate or write ideas around their own copy of the quote, and then take it home so that they can put it somewhere that reminds them of it. Find a printable pdf of the quote here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/st_tikhon_of_zadonsk_love_of_god.pdf
With your students, read what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about their duties to their parents! Talk together about each duty. Share from your own experience any stories related to these duties and how you did/did not uphold them in your own life. Invite students to share from their story, as well. Then talk about the duties: How do these duties compare to what the rest of the world is telling us right now? How would following St. Tikhon’s guidance help each student? What ideas do they have of how to fulfill these duties, especially the ones that seem different from what today’s world says that kids should do? http://serfes.org/orthodox/children.htm
Here’s a 2-minute video featuring a quote from St. Tikhon about loving your neighbor and not judging them. Discuss this quote with older students: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Jw7oiZU9qzc
With older students, review what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about love of God by visiting this blog: http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot.com/2009/11/signs-of-love-for-god.html Encourage each member of the class to select one point to work on in their own life, one way in which they desire to better love God. Invite them to create something (written, musical, or artistic) to help them meditate on that point.