Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Brief Post on St. Tikhon of Zadonsk on the Passion

One of my private intentions for this blog was to try to post more material this Lent that discusses the Orthodox/patristic view of Christ's Passion or contemplation on the same. I wanted to do so, not because this is the only Western Orthodox devotion, or even that it is a primary consideration for Western Rite Orthodox; as I've noted elsewhere, our Western Rite, no less than the Byzantine, presents a balanced picture of Christ's Passion as at once suffering and joy, a rejection and a triumph, a prelude to His most glorious resurrection and the means by which He conquered death. Certainly, at time some in the West have overemphasized the former aspect at the expense of the latter. In the present atmosphere, wherein Orthodox polemicists rail against the West whenever the opportunity presents itself, this balance is in danger of being lost on the other side. All such posts should be taken only in this context.

Of course, the motivation is virtually moot. Thus, I have been far less-than-diligent in this resolution. Of the many things I meant to put online, I've posted only two: St. Ephrem the Syrian's exhortation to meditate on the sufferings of Christ, and a similarity in the prayers of the Stations of the Cross and Byzantine Resurrectional stichera. The first is an outstanding sermon from a Church Father; the other was just a quick observation.

Today's post is just a tiny snippet of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk's views on the subject. Meditation on Christ's Passion played an important role in that saint's spirituality, as Bp. HILARION of Vienna and Austria (Moscow Patriarch) alluded to in an earlier post ("How Orthodox Saints Assessed Western Spirituality"). Here are but a very few of that saint's words:
Try to know yourself, your own wickedness. Think on the greatness of God and your wretchedness. Meditate on the suffering of Christ, the magnitude of Whose love and suffering surpass our understanding.
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, "A Spiritual Treasure" (Quoted in Orthodox America, ROCOR's official newspaper).
St. Tikhon's devotions to Christ's Passion were so intense, writes one biographer, that they manifest:
loving sorrow; indeed, they sound like the participation in the suffering of a most loved person. One could well illustrate a "kenotic" trend in Russian religious thought by the words of Tikhon. And he stands out among the Russians in the vivid, poignant language he uses when speaking of the sufferings of Christ.
Nadejda Gorodetzky. Saint Tikhon Zadonsk. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 1976), p. 167.
May we approach Christ's suffering with balance and attain this saint's tenderness of heart.

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