First Epistle of Patriarch Tikhon to the Fold
Humble Tikhon, by the Grace of God Patriarch of Moscow and all Russias, to the beloved in the Lord bishops, priests, and all faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Russia.
“That the Lord might deliver us from the wickedness of this present world” (Gal. I, 4).
Hard times are being now experienced by the holy orthodox Church of Christ in the Russian Land: persecution has been set up against Christ’s truth by open and secret enemies of this truth, who seek to destroy the work of Christ and in place of Christian love sow everywhere seeds of spite, hatred and fratricidal war.
Forgotten and trampled on are Christ’s commandments of love to neighbours — daily news reaches us of horrible and brutal massacres of absolutely innocent and even bedridden sick people, guilty perhaps only in that they honestly performed their duty to their native country, that they placed all their Strength in serving for the national good. And all this is accomplished not only under cover of nocturnal darkness, but visibly — in broad daylight, with unheard of until now insolence and unsparing cruelty, without any trial and with the trampling upon all rights and legality — is committed in our days almost in all cities and villages of our fatherland: in the capitals and in distant borderland (in Petersburg, Moscow, Irkutsk, Sebastopole and others).
All this fills our heart with deep and painful sorrow and compels us to address those monsters of the human race with the stern word of accusation and prohibition in accordance with the bequest of the holy Apostle: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Tim. V, 20).
Come to your senses, madmen, cease your bloody warfare. That, what you are doing, is not only cruel work, it is — indeed the work of satan, for which you are subject to fire in hell in the life to come — beyond the grave, and the frightful curse of posterity in the present, earthly life.
By the power, given us from God, we forbid you to approach the Sacraments of Christ, we anathematize you, if only you still bear Christian names and by your birth belong to the Orthodox Church.
We also exhort all you, faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ, not to enter into any communion with such monsters of the human race “put away from among yourselves the wicked” (1 Cor. V, 18).
The most cruel persecution has been raised likewise against the Holy Church of Christ: sacraments full of Grace, sanctifying man’s birth into the world or blessing conjugal union of the Christian family, — openly are declared unnecessary, superfluous; holy churches are subjected either to destruction by fire from deadly weapons (the holy cathedrals of Moscow Kreml) or to plunder and blasphemous insults (the chapel of the Saviour in Petersburg); holy monasteries revered by the faithful people (such as the Alexandro-Nevsky and Pochaevsky Monasteries) are seized by godless rulers of the darkness of this world and proclaimed as if they were some sort of national property; schools, maintained by the means of the Orthodox Church and preparing priests and teachers of Orthodox faith, are considered superfluous and transformed into schools of irreligion or even directly into disseminators of immorality. Properties of orthodox monasteries and churches are taken away under the pretext that they are — national property, but without any right and even without the desire to reckon with the lawful will of the people themselves. And, finally, the power which promised to install in Russia order, right and truth, guarantee freedom, — manifests everywhere only the greatest licentiousness and continuous violence against the holy Orthodox Church.
Where are the limits to this mockery of the Church of Christ? How and by what means is it possible to stop this aggression upon Her of furious enemies?
We call all of you — believers and faithful children of the Church — stand up for the defense of your now insulted and oppressed holy mother. Enemies of the Church seize power over Her and Her property by the force of deadly weapons, while you stand up against them with the power of your faith, your powerful outcry of the whole people, which will stop the madmen and show them, that they have no right to call themselves champions of the welfare of the people, architects of a new life in accordance with the dictates of the public mind, because they act even directly against the people’s conscience.
And if it be necessary to suffer for Christ’s sake, we call upon you, beloved children of the Church, call you to these sufferings together with ourselves with the words of the holy Apostle: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (shall) tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. VIII, 35).
And you, brethren bishops and priests, without delaying a single hour in your spiritual work, with fiery zeal call your children to the defense of the now trampled upon rights of the Orthodox Church, immediately organize spiritual unions, call not by constraint, but by good will to enter the ranks of spiritual combatants, who oppose external force with the force of their holy inspiration, and we firmly hope that the enemies of the Church will be shamed and dispersed by the might of Christ’s Cross, because unfailing is the promise of the Divine Cross-Bearer Himself: “I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. XVI, 18).
Tikhon, patriarch of Moscow and all Russias.
January 19, 1918.
DECISION OF THE ALL-RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH COUNCIL OF 1917-1918.
On January 28, 1918, the Council decreed:
“The Holy Council of the All-Russian Orthodox Church lovingly greets the Epistle of the Most Holy Patriarch Tikhon, chastising malefactors and denouncing enemies of the Church of Christ. From the height of the Patriarchal throne has thundered the word of interdiction and the spiritual sword has been raised against those, who commit interminable insults over the sacred objects of faith and the conscience of the people. The Holy Council witnesses that it remains in complete union with the Father and Intercessor of the Russian Church, heeds his summons, and is ready to sacrificingly testify Christ’s faith against Her blasphemers. The Holy Council likewise calls the entire Russian Church, with bishops and priests at Her head, to unite now around the Patriarch in order not to give the faith unto insult.”
Source: Orthodox Life Magazine, 1961 Vol 5, Jordanville, New York, USA