Photo of Sunday of Orthodoxy procession at St. Tikhon’s Monastery from here.
Saint Tikhon, the holy New-Confessor, Patriarch of Moscow and
Enlightener of North America, began his episcopal service as bishop of
the Aleutian Islands and North America from 1898-1907. His missionary
zeal was nothing short of extraordinary, not only in its obvious
presence in his own life and actions, and those of the clergy under
his guidance and pastoral care, but also in the important place he
desired it to hold in the life of the laity over whom he presided. The
following sermon, delivered in 1903 on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (first
Sunday of Great Lent) at the Cathedral Church in San Francisco,
presents the missionary call to which all are exhorted, which itself
is part-and-parcel with the gift of the Church that all Orthodox have
received. It is an especially relevant text today, in a time when many
Orthodox have lost sight of the great missionary commission imparted
by the Triumph of Orthodoxy to all the Church’s faithful.
This Sunday, Brethren, begins the week of Orthodoxy, or the week of
the Triumph of Orthodoxy, because it is today that the Holy Orthodox
Church solemnly recalls its victory over the Iconoclast heresy and
other heresies and gratefully remembers all who fought for the
Orthodox faith in word, writing, teaching, suffering, or godly living.
Keeping the day of Orthodoxy, Orthodox people ought to remember it is
their sacred duty to stand firm in their Orthodox faith and carefully
to keep it.
For us it is a precious treasure: in it we were born and raised; all
the important events of our life are related to it, and it is ever
ready to give us its help and blessing in all our needs and good
undertakings, however unimportant they may seem. It supplies us with
strength, good cheer and consolation, it heals, purifies and saves us.
The Orthodox faith is also dear to us because it is the Faith of our
Fathers. For its sake the Apostles bore pain and labored; martyrs and
preachers suffered for it; champions, who were like unto the saints,
shed their tears and their blood; pastors and teachers fought for it;
and our ancestors stood for it, whose legacy it was that to us it
should be dearer than the pupil of our eyes.
And as to us, their descendants – do we preserve the Orthodox faith,
do we keep to its Gospels? Of yore, the prophet Elijah, this great
worker for the glory of God, complained that the Sons of Israel have
abandoned the Testament of the Lord, leaning away from it towards the
gods of the heathen. Yet the Lord revealed to His prophet, that
amongst the Israelites there still were seven thousand people who have
not knelt before Baal (3 Kings 19 LXX [Note]). Likewise, no doubt, in
our days also there are some true followers of Christ. ‘The Lord
knoweth them that are His.’ (2 Tim 2.19)
We do occasionally meet sons of the Church, who are obedient to Her
decrees, who honor their spiritual pastors, love the Church of God and
the beauty of its exterior, who are eager to attend to its Divine
Service and to lead a good life, who recognize their human failings
and sincerely repent of their sins.
But are there many such among us? Are there not more people, ‘in whom
the weeds of vanity and passion allow but little fruit to the
influence of the Gospel, or even in whom it is altogether fruitless,
who resist the truth of the Gospel, because of the increase of their
sins, who renounce the gift of the Lord and repudiate the Grace of
‘I have given birth to sons and have glorified them, yet they deny
Me,’ said the Lord in the olden days concerning Israel. And today also
there are many who were born, raised and glorified by the Lord in the
Orthodox faith, yet who deny their faith, pay no attention to the
teachings of the Church, do not keep its injunctions, do not listen to
their spiritual pastors and remain cold towards the divine service and
the Church of God.
How speedily some of us lose the Orthodox faith in this country of
many creeds and tribes! They begin their apostasy with things, which
in their eyes have but little importance. They judge it is ‘old
fashioned’ and ‘not accepted amongst educated people’ to observe all
such customs as: praying before and after meals, or even morning and
night, to wear a cross, to keep icons in their houses and to keep
church holidays and fast days. They even do not stop at this, but go
further: they seldom go to church and sometimes not at all, as a man
has to have some rest on a Sunday (…in a saloon); they do not go to
confession, they dispense with church marriage and delay baptizing
And in this way their ties with Orthodox faith are broken! They
remember the Church on their deathbed, and some don’t even do that! To
excuse their apostasy they naively say: ‘this is not the old country,
this is America, and consequently it is impossible to observe all the
demands of the Church.’, as if the word of Christ is of use for the
old country only and not for the whole world. As if the Orthodox faith
is not the foundation of the world!
‘Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil
doers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they
have provoked the Holy One of Israel into anger.’ (Is 1.4)
If you do not preserve the Orthodox faith and the commandments of God,
the least you can do is not to humiliate your hearts by inventing
false excuses for your sins!
If you do not honor our customs, the least you can do is not to laugh
at things you do not know or understand.
If you do not accept the motherly care of the Holy Orthodox Church,
the least you can do is to confess you act wrongly, that you are
sinning against the Church and behave like children!
If you do, the Orthodox Church may forgive you, like a loving mother,
your coldness and slights, and will receive you back into her embrace,
as if you were erring children.
Holding to the Orthodox faith, as to something holy, loving it with
all their hearts and prizing it above all, Orthodox people ought,
moreover, to endeavor to spread it amongst people of other creeds.
Christ the Savior has said that ‘neither do men light a candle and put
it under a bushel, but on a candle stick, and it giveth light unto all
that are in the house.’ (Mt 5.15)
The light of Orthodoxy was not lit to shine only on a small number of
men. The Orthodox Church is universal; it remembers the words of its
Founder: ‘Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature’ (Lk 16.15), ‘go ye therefore and teach all nations’ (Mt
We ought to share our spiritual wealth, our truth, light and joy with
others, who are deprived of these blessings, but often are seeking
them and thirsting for them.
Once ‘a vision appeared to Paul in the night, there stood a man from
Macedonia and prayed him, saying, come over into Macedonia, and help
us,’ (Acts 16.9) after which the apostle started for this country to
preach Christ. We also hear a similar inviting voice. We live
surrounded by people of alien creeds; in the sea of other religions,
our Church is a small island of salvation, towards which swim some of
the people, plunged in the sea of life. ‘Come, hurry, help,’ we
sometimes hear from the heathen of far Alaska, and oftener from those
who are our brothers in blood and once were our brothers in faith
also, the Uniates. ‘Receive us into your community, give us one of
your good pastors, send us a Priest that we might have the Divine
Service performed for us of a holy day, help us to build a church, to
start a school for our children, so that they do not lose in America
their faith and nationality,’ those are the wails we often hear,
especially of late.
And are we to remain deaf and insensible? God save us from such a lack
of sympathy. Otherwise woe unto us, ‘for we have taken away the key of
knowledge, we entered not in ourselves, and them that were entering in
we hindered.’ (Lk 11.52)
But who is to work for the spread of the Orthodox faith, for the
increase of the children of the Orthodox Church? Pastors and
missionaries, you answer. You are right; but are they to be alone?
St. Paul wisely compares the Church of Christ to a body, and the life
of a body is shared by all the members. So it ought to be in the life
of the Church also. ‘The whole body fitly joined together and
compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the
effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the
body unto the edifying of itself in love.’ (Eph 4.16)
At the beginning, not only pastors alone suffered for the faith of
Christ, but lay people also, men, women and even children. Heresies
were fought against by lay people as well. Likewise, the spread of
Christ’s faith ought to be near and precious to the heart of every
Christian. In this work every member of the Church ought to take a
lively and heart-felt interest. This interest may show itself in
personal preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
And to our great joy, we know of such examples amongst our lay
brethren. In Sitka, members of the Indian brotherhood do missionary
work amongst other inhabitants of their villages. And one zealous
brother took a trip to a distant village (Kilisno), and helped the
local Priest very much in shielding the simple and credulous children
of the Orthodox Church against alien influences, by his own
explanations and persuasions. Moreover, in many places of the United
States, those who have left Uniatism to join Orthodoxy point out to
their friends where the truth is to be found, and dispose them to
enter the Orthodox Church.
Needless to say, it is not everybody among us who has the opportunity
or the faculty to preach the gospel personally. And in view of this I
shall indicate to you, Brethren, what every man can do for the spread
of Orthodoxy and what he ought to do.
The Apostolic Epistles often disclose the fact, that when the Apostles
went to distant places to preach, the faithful often helped them with
their prayers and their offerings. Saint Paul sought this help of the
Consequently we can express the interests we take in the cause of the
Gospel in praying to the Lord,
that He should take this holy cause under His protection,
that He should give its servants the strength to do their work worthily,
that He should help them to conquer difficulties and dangers,
which are part of the work,
that He should not allow them to grow depressed or weaken in their zeal;
that He should open the hearts of the unbelieving for the
hearing and acceptance of the Gospel of Christ,
that He should impart to them the word of truth,
that He should unite them to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
that He should confirm, increase and pacify His Church,
keeping it forever invincible, we pray for all this, but mostly with lips and but seldom with the heart.
Don’t we often hear such remarks as these: ‘what is the use of these
special prayers for the newly initiated? They do not exist in our
time, except, perhaps, in the out of the way places of America and
Asia; let them pray for such where there are any; as to our country
such prayers only needlessly prolong the service which is not short by
any means, as it is.’ Woe to our lack of wisdom! Woe to our
carelessness and idleness!
Offering earnest prayers for the successful preaching of Christ, we
can also show our interest by helping it materially. It was so in the
primitive Church, and the Apostles lovingly accepted material help to
the cause of the preaching, seeing in it an expression of Christian
love and zeal.
In our days, these offerings are especially needed, because for the
lack of them the work often comes to a dead stop. For the lack of them
preachers can not be sent out, or supported, churches can not be built
or schools founded, the needy amongst the newly converted can not be
helped. All this needs money and members of other religions always
find a way of supplying it.
Perhaps, you will say, that these people are richer than ourselves.
This is true enough, but great means are accumulated by small, and if
everybody amongst us gave what he could towards this purpose, we also
could raise considerable means. Accordingly, do not be ashamed of the
smallness of your offering. If you have much, offer all you can, but
do offer, do not lose the chance of helping the cause of the
conversion of your neighbors to Christ, because by so doing, in the
words of St. James, ‘you shall save your own soul from death and shall
hide a multitude of sins’ (Jas 5.19-20).
Orthodox people! In celebrating the day of Orthodoxy, you must devote
yourselves to the Orthodox faith not in word or tongue only, but in
deed and in truth.
 The book of 3 Kingdoms in the Septuagint version of the Old
Testament is coordinate with the book of 1 Kings in the Hebrew Bible
on which most English translations are based. As such, the text of 3
Kings 19 can be found in most English Bibles as 1 Kings 19.