By Fr. Gerasim
By Fr. Gerasim of Alaska
The holy abbot Tikhon of Kaluga embraced monasticism
in his youthful days in Moscow, then he laboured for many years in a forest in
the hollow of a huge oak near the town of Medin in the Kaluga province. he
founded a monastery on that very spot dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother
of God and he was its abbot. St. Tikhon died on June 16, 1492. His holy relics
at first were openly exposed in the monastery's main cathedral. But, due to
frequent raids on the monastery and the monastery's final destruction, the monks
buried the Holy Relics in the earth where they remained until the time of the
Russian revolution. In time, on the spot where St. Tikhon was buried, the
magnificent cathedral of the Transfiguration was erected with five altars, and
over his very grave was built an artistically designed reliquary, on which there
was placed a large icon of St. Tikhon. A large canopy was constructed over the
reliquary, three sides of which were adorned with silver hanging lampadas. The
reliquary was located on the right side of the cathedral near the cliros of the
main Transfiguration altar. The inside of the five domed Cathedral had a
marble-like finish, and was decorated in a rich and ornate manner. Not long
before the revolution, St. Tikhon's monastery, which had retained the title of a
desert hermitage, "blossomed like a lily" and was one of the best
established of all desert monasteries. There were two magnificent cathedrals in
the monastery, that of the Transfiguration, which was the winter church, and a
new beautiful summer cathedra~ dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother 6f
God. There was erected an elegant belfry with huge bells. In 1906 they hung a
new immense bell that weighed 32 tons which could be heard far away in the
villages, towns and ranches. In 1909 a large refectory with a church dedicated
to St. Nicholas was consecrated. There was another large church near the
monastery infirmary. The monastery had many monastic structures including three
guest houses outside the monastery wall. About two miles from the monastery was
the spring of St... Tikhon, a church, two separate enclosed pools built into the
healing well, one for men, and the other for women, and two houses where the
monastic brotherhood, consistingof 7 or 8 monks, lived at that time.
Eight miles from the monastery was a skete dedicated
to the Meeting of the Lord inhabited by 30 monks in the skete the humble and
quiet brotherhood spent its time in hard ascetic labors. The skete was located
deep in the forest, and only later did the sound of the railroad tracks which
were constructed nearby disrupt the quietness of this wondrous spot in one of
the most picturesque areas of the Kaluga region.
God granted me to live in St. Tikhqn's monastery for
about six years, becoming well acquainted with the entire expanse of the
monastery. Before the First World War there were 250 brothers in the monastery.
The monastery owned much land, many farms and a well constructed house (metochia)
in Kalua It is not true, as the Bolsheviks wrote, that the monastery had
millions of rubies, and that all the money was lost, having supposedly been
deposited in German banks. There was nothing of the sort!
I knew the last three of the monastery's archimandrites, Moses, Lawrence,
and Platon, and I knew well that they were true monks, patriotic sons of their
Mother Russia. They were all of peasant stock and were far from being so cunning
as to send the monastery capital overseas. This is a lie, a slander of the
godless ones upon monasticism. I
know well that the monastery had a lot of land and a lot of income from thas
land, but with this the monastery would help many people. There was no set price
for pilgrims to stay in the guesthouse, they would donate whatever they could.
All poor people were fed and given lodging free of charge. Everyone would
receive rye bread and kvas. The monastery infirmary was open to lay people. and
all local peasants and farmers who lived in the vicinity of the monastery..
Medical assistance and medicines were given free of charge. In April, 1908,
there was a frightful flood throughout all of Russia. This occured also in
region where. many villages were washed away by the water. The monastery
rendered assistance in every way possible to those who had suffered. The
monastery also operated a school for village boys out of which the boys were
later able to become teachers and businessmen or take up other professions. I
cannot recount all the charitable things the monastery did.
Russian people loved St.. Tikhon's monastery very much and hundreds of thousands
would visit it every summer.. Many of our hierarchs would visit there too. In
the fall of 1911 the monastery was visited by the righteous one of the twentieth
century, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Kaluga bishops visited the
monastery every year on the sixteenth of June, the feast day of St. Tikhon,
Bishop Nikodim, Vicar of the Kursk Diocese (of Belgorod), also greatly loved to
visit frequently St. Tikhon's monastery. It was he who was later martyred by the
Bolsheviks in 1918. All the monks loved this humble, meek, and kind hierarch of
God, Nikodim, and would say; Fortunate indeed will be that diocese which will
have as its head, Bishop Nikodim.
was a great miracle worker. From all corners of the wide Russian land people
would gather at his grave. There were many miracles which took place at the
shrine of his relics and also at his well. Even during my stay there the Lord
worked great miracles at his relics and at the spring. A twelve year old
paralyzed peasant girl who was carried there in her mothers arms was
miraculously healed. During the moleben, when the hieromonk placed the Holy
Gospel on the head of the sick girl, she stood on her feet and loudly exclaimed:
"Mother! Mother, I can walk! I am now healthy." Everyone in the church
saw the miracle and wept Many newspapers wrote about this miracle.
is another great miracle which I shall never forget. I do not remember the exact
year but the details of that miracle I well recall. During the days of Great
Lent a sick young girl was brought to the monastery whose arms and legs were
paralyzed. She had to be wheeled around the church. Pascha was late that year.
It was warm and green everywhere. On the third day after Pascha the sick girl
was brought to the spring of St. Tikhon and the women, having placed her on a
sheet immersed her into the cold running spring water. and what do you think
happened? The girl, already condemned by the luminaries of the medical.
sciences, stood up on her legs and by her self came out of the water. In 1914,
on the eve of April, I myself saw her in one of the convents absolutely healthy,
rosy-checked, and working in the garden. In gratitude for her healing she
dedicated her whole life to the service or God by joining the ranks of monastics.
There were also a great multitude of other miracles. I was the cell-attendant of
the archimandrite and I know for sure that people would write; some would ask
for holy water, holy oil, and prosphoras, while others would ask that a vigil or
moleben would be served to Saint Tikhon. During the summertime the requested
vigils to St. Tikhon would be held quite often, but then 1918 arrived and the
beautiful monastery of St. Tikhon was taken over and defiled by the godless
ones. The monks were forced to leave, the holy things were desecrated, the bells
and crosses, taken down. It is difficult for me even to remember that. My tears
do not allow me to write.
Tikhon was highly revered by the pious Muscovites who considered him their own
saint because, "He embraced monasticism in the city of Moscow." He was
also highly revered in our northern capital, the city of St; Peter; for in the
grounds of his monastery many residents of St. Petersburg found their eternal
rest. In the basement church of the Transfiguration Cathedral there were many
dignitaries buried who spent the last days of their lives inside the walls of
the holy monastery. The former governor of Alaska, Symeon Ivanovich Yanovsky,
and his son, hiero-schema-monk Christopher, were buried there. Many were buried
around the Transfiguration Cathedral. Before the bloody revolution, on the
monastery grounds, there was order and cleanliness. The graves were taken care.
of, and over many of them there were beautiful memorial stones and burning
lampadas. And then came that red Beast, that terrible bloody dragon to the
Russian land and he destroyed and defiled everything.
But it is not the first time that the holy monastery
of St. Tikhon was destroyed. In the past, its church buildings and walls were
destroyed. It seemed that there would never be anything there again. But then
the terrible times would pass and the Lord would cleanse Holy Russia from all
impurity and again the holy places of Russia would be resurrected and just as
other monasteries were, St. Tikhon's monastery would become an oasis in the
desert wasteland. Again it would rise from the rubble and ashes and it would
become like other Russian monasteries, a seedbed of enlightenment' a spiritual
school of Orthodox culture. The disciples of the holy fathers would settle at
the ruins, they would clean up the holy place and once again would build temples
of God and all that is necessary to sustain the life of man.
One wants to believe that the time will come when, on the Russian land, will shine again the bright Sun of Christian Love, Christian Peace, and Christian Brotherhood, when again the temples of God will be reopened, the lamps under its vaults will burn again like bonfires of candles. Then the monks, and with them all Orthodox people will sing, "Rejoice and be glad, O holy and God-pleasing Desert who has nurtured our praiseworthy father, Tikhon." so be it, so be it.
Spuce Island, Alaska
Pravoslavny Blagovestnik, San Francisco, Jan. 1943