Holy Patriarch Tikhon's
Address on the New Year, 1918
The past year witnessed the construction of the Russian state. But alas! Does it not call to mind the tragic lesson of the construction of the Tower of Babel?
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make a name for ourselves, 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 built. And the Lord said, "let us go down and there confuse 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. (Gen. 11, 1, 4-5, 7-8). The construction of the Tower of Babel was not pleasing to God, not in accordance with the plans of divine management. Does not let us make a name for ourselves remind us of the desire of our first parents to be like gods (Gen. 3, 5)? And the hitherto one language was confounded into various dialects, and the one nation was divided into various hostile tribes which destroyed each other.
Unless the Lord builds the house, they who build it labor in vain. It is vain for you to rise before light, to sit late into the night (Ps. 126, 1-2). This was fulfilled in ancient times upon the builders of the Tower of Babel. It is taking place again today before our own eyes. Our builders also strive to make a name for themselves, to heap benefits through their reforms and decrees not only upon our hapless Russian people, but upon the entire world including even nations which are far more cultured than we. And that very same fate which befell the Babylonians' plans is overtaking their presumptuous project: instead of good it is bringing bitter disappointment. Desiring to make us rich and wanting nothing, they are in reality making us wretched, miserable, poor and naked (Rev. 3, 17). They have turned the great, mighty, and powerful Russia feared by her enemies not so long ago into a pitiful name, a deserted place, broken in pieces that devour each other in civil conflict. When we read the Lamentations of Jeremiah, through the words of the Prophet we mourn for our own dear homeland.
How the Lord has cast down our beauty, how He has destroyed our fortifications, how He has rejected our kings and princes. How lonely sits the country that was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! He that was a prince among the cities has become a vassal. He weeps bitterly in the night, tears on his cheeks; and he has none to comfort him. His foes have become the head, his enemies prosper, and his enemy has stretched out his hands over his most precious things. Look, O Lord, and behold, how despised we are and is there any sorrow like that which has been brought upon us. All the people groan as they search for bread, they trade their treasures for food, the wood they get must be bought at great price, and our inheritance has been turned over to strangers. The children beg for food, but no one gives to them. Those who feasted on dainties perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple lie on ash heaps (cf. Lamentations 1, 1-2, 5, 10-12; 4, 4-5; 5, 2, 4). And this in a country, which had been the granary of all Europe, renowned for its wealth.
And all this disorder and these shortages come from the fact that the Russian government is now being built without God. Have we even heard the holy Name of the Lord spoken by our authorities in our numerous councils, parliaments and deliberative assemblies? No, they rely solely on their own power, desirous of making a name for themselves, unlike our pious ancestors, who gave glory, not to themselves, but to the Name of the Lord. For this reason the Most High will make a mockery of our plans and will destroy our councils. Thou, O Lord, art truly in the right, for we have rebelled against Thy word (cf. Lamentations 1, 18).
We have forgotten the Lord! We have rushed after a new prosperity, we have begun to chase deceptive shadows, we have adhered to the world, to money, we have slaked our thirst with the wine of freedom Ñ thus, in order to obtain as much as possible, to take especially for oneself, so that nothing is left for anyone else. We worry about transitory things, and forget completely to have a care for our immortal soul. For this reason our worries about the building of granaries and barns (cf. Luke 12, 13-20) will meet with failure. The Church condemns such construction as ours, and we resolutely warn you that we will meet with no success, until we remember God, without whom nothing good can be accomplished (cf. John 15, 5) until we turn to Him with all our heart and with all our mind (Mat. 22, 38). Now more and more we hear people saying that it is not plans and construction efforts, which we had in such abundance during the past year, that will save Russia, but only a miracle, if we are worthy of it.
Let us entreat the Lord to bless the crown of the coming year with His goodness, and let it be for Russia the year of the Lord's favor (Is. 61, 2).
-Translated from the Russian by Robert Parent.
First published in English in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 2, No. 5, January 1995.