A Sermon delivered by Archbishop Tikhon
in San Francisco, California
on 6 May 1904
TODAY, BRETHREN, we celebrate the birthday of our Sovereign. The day, of one's birth is important and joyful in the life of every man. "A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world" (St. John 16:21). Life is precious gift of God, the greatest blessing, which opens for the a man a series of other blessings, in outer nature, in his own being, both spiritual and bodily, and in the society of the people who surround him. Yet, since the fall of the first man, there is no complete and perfect joy on earth. "What life's joy is not connected with sorrow?" In the life of all of us there are a good many sorrow and suffering, they are the lots of all born on earth.
In the wise words of Solomon, a king also is a mortal man, like unto all, who enters life in the way common to all and goes out as all other men, and, on being born, gives voice for the first time by crying, as do all men (Wisdom 7:1-6); consequently there must be sorrow and suffering in the life or our beloved Sovereign.
Let it not seem strange to you, brethren, that on the glad day of the birth of our Emperor, we speak of his sorrows and sufferings. We find out justification in the fact of our Sovereign's birthday coinciding with the day which the Orthodox Church has consecrated to the memory of the long-suffering Job. To man this coincidence will seem to be but mere chance. But in the eyes of a believer there can be no chance, and only the more so when the elected by the Lord Himself in the time of need (Ecclesiastes 10:4). Consequently it is no mere chance, but rather a mysterious coincidence, that the birth of our Sovereign and the memory of the long-suffering Job come on the same day.
Who has not heard concerning Righteous Job, how this "man of many possessions, overflowing with wealth and flocks, was suddenly deprived of wealth and glory, becoming a beggar; childless, though he had many children, and houseless; having been the first on the throne, naked now and full of sores on his bed of sores" (Canon of St. Andrew of Crete).
By permission of God, dreadful calamities befall this righteous man, and shock after shock strike at him. One after the other messengers come to him bringing sad news about the loss of all his possessions. And when the preceding messenger was still speaking, there came one more to tell him about the loss of all his children and servants. Then, in his own turn, he is stricken with a painful disease - leprosy. Was it easy for Job to bear all this? "Was this strength the strength of stones and was his flesh of brass?" (Job 6:12). "If his grieves were thoroughly weighed and his calamities laid in the balance together," possibly they would have outweighed the sane of the sea (Job 6:1-2).
Yet Job bore manfully all this misfortunes that befell him, and "in all this did not Job sin with his lips" (Job 2:10), he did not murmur against God. But wounds more painful than exterior calamities are in store for him, various vices, instead of condoling with him, as they believed that God punished him for his sins. One of them said: "Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite? For thou has taken a pledge from thy brother for naught, and stripped the naked of their clothing. Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast witholden bread from the hungry. But as for the mighty man he had the earth; and the honorable man dwelt in it. Thou have sent widows away empty and the arms of the fatherless have been broken" (Job 22:5-9). "Shall vain words have an end?" (Job 16:3). "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends, for the hand of God has touched me. Why do ye persecute me, and are not satisfied with my flesh" (Job 19:21-22).
Now brethren, let us turn from the ancient times to our days, from the man who "was the greatest of all the men of the east" (Job 1:3) to our country and its Supreme Chief. Our land is great and gifted from the Lord with generous gifts; it is called Holy Russia, and it is peopled with a nation whose piety is known throughout the world. The Tsars of our country are given the title of the "most righteous;" they are not in name only, but in deed. But of late, by the decrees of God, which are past understanding, various parts of our large country are visited with calamities. Our Tsar received, as Job did of yore, tiding after tiding, telling of failing crops, of devastating fires, of earthquakes, mountain landslides and inundations. And in recent days, to all this was added the war (Russo-Japanese War, 1905-1905) with all its horrors, losses and sacrifices, a war into which one peace-loving Tsar was pushed by main force. Can our Emperor bear all these calamities with a light a light heart? Can he help suffering for the land of his birth?
Yet wounds still more painful are death to his heart. Like Job, misunderstood by his friends and suffering from this misunderstanding, the Russian people, with its crown-bearing Chief at its head, have failed to this day to receive a correct valuation from their neighbors. Their best intentions are met with mistrust and are suspected of insincerity. Monstrous scheming is ascribed to them. Their best endeavors are commented upon in an unfavorable way, are distorted and laughed at. All the good in them is passed by in silence and their failings are magnified to a huge size and are announced to the entire world. Our country is depicted as the most unenlightened, far less cultured than such Asiatics as the Japanese is, for instance. Our government is said to be most faulty, such as only the Russian people can bear!
Let us not continue the enumeration of those foolish accusations: all our compatriots who abroad know them well. "Judge them, O Lord, that do me injustice; war against them that war against me" (Psalm 34:1).
Grant unto our beloved Sovereign the successfulness of Moses, the manliness of David and wisdom of Solomon, together with the patience of Job.
Help him, O Lord, and all the Russian people to believe in Christ's truth and in the righteousness of his labors and to hold to the way of the Lord, as in the past, in spite of anything our ill wishers may say. Thus the Lord shall not forsake us, but will strengthen us with the hand of His truth, and those who go against us shall be brought to shame (Isaiah 41:10-11).
"Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord" (St. James 5:11). God returned to Job all he had lost and gave him double what he had at the beginning, and He blessed his last days more than his first (Job 42:101-112).
We believe and we trust that once more the Lord of the Gracious Heart, having punished us by short visitation or sorrow, will abundantly fill our souls with joy and gladness. Amen.
+Archbishop T I K H O N
San Francisco, California, 6/16 May 1904
(From: "THE LIFE AND WORKS OF ST. TIKHON THE CONFESSOR, PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW," Vol. I, Compiled and published by Father Demetrios Serfes)