Bishop Tikhon, in the world Alexander Lvovich Tikhomirov, was born in
Geneva on August 26, 1882, the son of the famous monarchist writer and
penitent former revolutionary, Lev Alexandrovich Tikhomirov. His family came
from the Tula region and was of the clerical estate.
"On his birthday on the 26th of August, 1888," writes Lev Alexandrovich, "Sasha and I attended church for the first time. Thank God, the Russian service apparently made an enormous impression on Sasha. He prayed with special feeling, he admired everything, all things elated him. Upon leaving church, not waiting for my question, he immediately began to comment on how everything was exceptional in church."
In 1889 Lev Alexandrovich obtained permission to return to Russia and finally settled in Moscow. He had already become the editor of the famous newspaper, Moskovskiye Vedomosti, in which he brilliantly demonstrated the genuineness of his conversion to Orthodoxy. On June 25, 1889, Sasha was baptized by Bishop Misail (Krylov), whom he himself buried several years later, in the 1920s. His father wrote that his son behaved so well during the service and took such a serious attitude to the sacrament "that my heart rejoiced".
At one time Sasha fell ill with meningitis or pneumonia, and a well-known doctor said:
"People do not recover from such illnesses".
However, he did recover, and his father wrote: "Sasha's recovery filled me with a kind of gratitude to I knew not whom. Sasha lived precisely 'under God'. I felt a mystical force. Religious feeling clearly took hold of and drew the child, who was ill and sickly, but at the same time noble in soul, with a certain special subtlety of spiritual perception. I learned to believe in the spiritual principle from observing this dear child, and I myself learned more from him, it seems, than I gave to him."
In 1902 Alexander Tikhomirov entered the Moscow Theological Academy, where, three years later, he was tonsured into monasticism with the name Tikhon and ordained to the priesthood. His parents blessed him for this path with an icon of the Iveron Mother of God. In 1906, Fr. Tikhon graduated from the Academy with the degree of candidate of theology, and was appointed a teacher in the Novgorod seminary. In 1907 he became an assistant in the Synodal vestry. In 1908 he became a teacher in the Bethany theological seminary, and on August 10, 1912 - inspector of the seminary. From July 28, 1911 he was supervisor of the Petrovsky school.
During his years in Sergiev Posad, Fr. Tikhon got to know the future martyr-bishops Arsenius (Zhadanovsky) and Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) and worked with them on the journal Golos Tserkvi (The Voice of the Church). In 1915 his article "Asceticism as the foundation of Russian culture" appeared in this journal. He also wrote an akathist on the "Feast of the Ten Virgins" of St. Methodius of Patara, and translated the kontakia of St. Roman the Melodist from Greek into Slavonic. According to those who knew him well, he was a very prayerful, quiet monk, intent on acquiring the unceasing prayer of Jesus. He slept little and only in a sitting position. Once a student who was passing by his cell noticed a smell of burning. Opening the door of his cell, he saw that Fr. Tikhon was lying on the floor leaning against the analogion with his candle fallen out of his hand. They immediately wakened him, and from that time Fr. Tikhon learned to arouse himself from sleep lest a similar accident take place again.
On June 22, 1913 he was appointed rector of the Novgorod seminary with the rank of archimandrite. On March 22, 1920, he was consecrated bishop of Cherepovetsk, a vicariate of the Novgorod diocese. From 1924 to 1927 he was bishop of Kirillovsk, a vicariate of the same diocese.
These were terrible years for the Church. In 1918 Bishop Barsonuphius of Kirillosk had been shot by the Bolsheviks together with Abbess Seraphima of the Ferapontov monastery. Almost all the churches were occupied by the renovationists. Vladyka Tikhon was arrested and imprisoned in Cherepovetsk prison. On leaving there, he was subjected to great pressure by the Bolsheviks to join the renovationists. But by the mercy of God the Kirillovsk diocese did not become renovationist.
At first Vladyka served in the desert of St. Nilus of Sora, but after being deprived of this possibility he served in the parish church of the Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Sorovo. He served with great ardour, and demanded a strict observance of the Typicon. For example, the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian was read without fail during the Christmas fast.
In 1927, because of his opposition to the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, Vladyka went into retirement. (According to one source, he may have been appointed bishop of Uglich in 1928. If he was, he did not take up the appointment.) In the same year he was arrested and put to work in a camp felling logs. However, through the help of some kind people he escaped the fate of so many hundreds of priests in the concentration camps and was able to flee. Then he went into hiding with Mother Hermogena (Telytsyn), a nun of the White Lake Goritsky monastery, first in the home of his mother and sisters in Sergiev Posad, and then with some spiritual children of his in Yaroslavl.
In Yaroslavl Vladyka lived literally underground, in a camouflaged room. Mother Hermogena secretly collected alms so that Vladyka should not die of hunger. In spite of the very difficult conditions of life, Vladyka wrote much in this period. But he spoke very little and would answer questions unwillingly. In effect, he lived the life of a recluse, praying on his knees for long hours.
Vladyka Tikhon died in Yaroslavl on March 26, 1955. Mother Hermogena died a year later. They are buried on the Tugova hill, near the altar apse of the ruined cemetery church.
His spiritual children composed the following verses in his honour:
Gentle in heart and humble you were,
You loved Christ God from your very youth
As you, a person I had not yet known,
(Sources: M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishego Patriarkha Tikhona, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, p. 994; Metropolitan Manuel, Die Russischen Orthodoxen Bischofe von 1893-1965, Erlangen, 1989, vol. 6, pp. 309-310; "Preosvyashchennij Tikhon, Episkop Kirillovskij", Russkij Palomnik, 1994, no. 9, pp. 44-48; Nun Ioanna, "Zhizneopisaniye Tikhona, Episkopa Kirillovskago", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', 48, N 9, September, 1996, pp. 1-8; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Paris: YMCA Press, 1977, p. 545; "The Life of the Confessor Tikhon, Bishop of Kyrillov", Orthodox Life, vol. 47, no. 4, July-August, 1997, pp. 2-10; N.N. Pokrovsky, S.G. Petrov, Politburo i Tserkov', 1922-1925, Moscow: Rosspen, 1998, volume 2, p. 571)