His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (+ 1925)

New Year's Sermon
(On the 80th Anniversary of His Death)

From the Editors: This year marks the 80th anniversary of the death of St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, a meek and peace-loving ascetic-confessor, denouncer of godless persecutors, leading the Russian Church in her most difficult years. The following is a sermon delivered at the Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow before the New Year's moleben on 1/14 January 1918:

This last year was a year devoted to the building of the Russian nation. But alas! Does it not remind us of the building of the Tower of Babylon?

"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speechÉ And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth" (Genesis 11:1, 4-5, 7-8). The Lord was not pleased by the construction in Babylon, which ran counter to the Divine plan. "Let us make us a name," does this not remind us of the desire of our forebears to "be as gods?" (Genesis 3:5). The one language existing until then was confused into several tongues, and the one nation was divided into several tribes, with enmity between them and destroying one another.

"Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build itÉ It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late" (Psalms 127:1-2). This came to pass for the builders of Babylon. It is happening even now before our eyes. Our builders wish to create a name for themselves with their reforms and decrees of benevolence not only for the poor Russian people but for the whole world, and even for nations far more cultured than we. And their high-minded task has already been rewarded as was that of the Babylonians: instead of good, bitter disappointment has resulted. Wishing to makes us rich and without need, they in fact made us wretched, and miserable, and poorÉ and naked (Revelations 3:17). Instead of the recently-great, mighty, powerful Russia, which instilled fear in her enemies, they have made her an impotent name, an empty space, shattering her into pieces which tear into each other in an internecine war. When you read "The Weeping of Jeremiah,"one also weeps at the words of the prophet and for our dear Homeland.

How the Lord cast down from heaven unto the earth our beauty, He hath thrown down in his wrath the strongholds, he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof! The country, that was full of people, became solitary, how is she become as a widow, the great prince among the provinces is become tributary. He weepeth sore in the night, and his tears are on his cheeks, and he hath none to comfort him. His adversaries are the chief, his enemies prosper, and have taken that which is most precious to him. O Lord, behold our affliction; be there any sorrow like unto our sorrow? All the people sigh, they seek bread, they have given their pleasant things for meat, our wood is sold unto us, our inheritance is turned to strangers. Young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them. They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets; they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills (Lamentations 1:1-2, 5, 10-12; 2:1-2; 4:4-5; 5:2-4). And all this in a nation that was once the breadbasket of Europe, praised for her riches.

All this destruction and poverty is because the Russian state is being built without God. Have we heard the holy name of our Lord from the lips of our rulers during our many councils, parliaments, pre-parliament meetings? No. They rely solely on their own powers, hoping to make a name for themselves, not as our pious forefathers had done, who did not glorify themselves but the Lord. For this reason did the Most-High mock our plans and will destroy our counsels. "The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment" (Lamentations 1:18).

We have forgotten the Lord! We chase new happiness, we began to follow deceptive shadows, we have embraced the earth, bread, money, we have become drunk of the wine of freedom, and all this to have more, to take only for ourselves, so that none is left for others. We care for that which passes away, but "to care for the soul, which is a thing immortal," we forget completely. That is why our efforts to create "temples and grainaries" meet with failure. The Church condemns such building, and we bring stern warning that you will have no success until you remember God, without Whom nothing good can be done (John 15:5); unless we appeal to Him with all our hearts and all our minds (Matthew 22:37). Now we hear more and more the voices saying that it is not our notions and ideas, with which we were so rich this past year, that will save Russia, but only a miracle--if we are worthy of it.

Let us pray the Lord that He blesses the coming year with His grace, and that it will be a an acceptable year of the Lord for Russia (Isaiah 61:2).