The Recovery of St. Tikhon’s relics in February 1992

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February 22, 1992:  Patriarch Aleksy presides at the opening of St. Tikhon’s recovered relics.

As widely reported, this year—2017—marks the 100th Anniversary of the Election and Enthronement of Saint Tikhon as Patriarch of Moscow during the All-Russian Church Council.  His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and a delegation representing the Orthodox Church in America departed for Moscow on Thursday, November 30, 2017 to participate in the celebration of this ever-memorable occasion that directly relates to the life of the Church in Russia and America, inasmuch as Saint Tikhon served as Bishop and later Archbishop of North America from 1898 until 1907, when he returned to his homeland.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of the discovery and recovery of the relics of Saint Tikhon, which were secured after his death in Moscow’s Donskoy Monastery.

Saint Patriarch Tikhon fell asleep in the Lord on April 8, 1925.  He had suffered greatly during the years of turmoil and persecution that followed the Russian Revolution.  He was laid to rest in the monastery’s small “winter” cathedral.  Subsequently the monastery was closed and repurposed, and the relics of Saint Tikhon were moved for safe keeping.

The Donskoy Monastery subsequently was returned to the Church and has been restored.  It was on Saturday, February 22, 1992, that Saint Tikhon’s relics were discovered, hidden deep beneath the floor of the small cathedral.

Just weeks before this joyous event, Protopresbyter Daniel Hubiak, together with Matushka Dunia, had arrived in Moscow as the Orthodox Church in America’s first Representative to the Russian Orthodox Church.  Little did they realize at the time that they would be witnesses to the recovery of Saint Tikhon’s relics on that cold February afternoon.

Both Father Daniel and Matushka Dunia wrote first-hand accounts of the discovery of Saint Tikhon’s relics, now enshrined in the Donskoy Monastery’s main cathedral.

In conjunction with the Anniversary of Saint Tikhon’s Enthronement in 1917, we offer the Hubiaks’ accounts of the discovery of Saint Tikhon’s relics.

Account of Matushka Dunia Hubiak

It is Saturday, February 22, 1992, in Moscow.  Father Dan and I are living at the Danilovsky Hotel.  We arrived in Moscow a month ago for Father Dan to begin his new assignment as Representative of the Orthodox Church in America to the Russian Orthodox Church (The Moscow Patriarchate).

Because no church was yet designated as our Representation Church, Father Dan would call Father Matfey Stadniuk on Saturday mornings to be told where he was to be for the Vigil and Divine Liturgy that weekend (usually at the Patriarchal Cathedral).  This Saturday morning (February 22) Father Matfey could not be reached.  Finally, around noon he answered the phone and told Father Dan to be at the Donskoy Monastery for a special service at 2:00 p.m.

The receptionists at the hotel (who were always very helpful) ordered a car and driver for us, and off we were to the Donskoy Monastery.  Upon our arrival at the main gate of the monastery, a mass of people, including clergy of all ranks, was gathering.  A sense of excitement permeated the scene.

What could all of this mean?

We arrived at the winter church and saw more people, clergy and TV cameras!  Father Dan was separated from me to join the clergy – I was left behind.  At that time, a month after arriving in Moscow, my linguistic ability was almost nonexistent, so I was unable to ask anyone anything.  So I stood there, trying to not get squeezed trying to see.  We were standing around what looked like a crypt in the vestibule.

Patriarch Aleksy entered and began the service.  More and more people crowded into the space, and again I was pushed to the side, unable to see.  However, I could still hear, and to my astonishment I discovered that we were standing at the tomb of the recently canonized Saint Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia – in many ways OUR Patriarch whom we commemorate as “the Enlightener of North America.”

The Molieben service began and the coffin was opened.  I made my way to a side of the area and found a chair on which I stood.  When the reality dawned on me as to what was taking place, I was very much moved and could hardly see because of my tears.

After most of the crowd had pushed and shoved its way to the side, I was able to look down and found the Mantia still intact with the eagles on the shoulders and at the hem.

Father Dan was given a piece of wood from the casket.

Just think!  If Father Dan had not reached Father Matfey, who was in his office all of two minutes, we would have missed this once in a lifetime experience!

Account of Father Daniel Hubiak

At the end of the meeting of the Permanent Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy was informed that the grave of Saint Tikhon had been found in the smaller Cathedral of Our Lady of the Don in the Donskoy Monastery.  The Patriarch immediately went to the site and arranged for the opening of the casket at a special service at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 22, 1992.

The top of the simple wooden casket was removed, revealing the mantia which covered the body of the saint.  Two gold brocaded emblems on the mantia were shining as new.  His Holiness said that the green patriarchal mantia was special in that it was one of only three made with that material and special style.  The stones in the cross of the Saint’s miter glistened as camera lights flashed.

A Molieben was sung.  Patriarch Aleksy spoke of the significance of this discovery and stated that a crypt will be made for the Saint’s relics.

The discovery of the Saint’s grave was miraculous.  Three different rumors pointed to the improbability of ever finding the remains of the Saint.  One version had it that the remains of the Saint had been cremated, another that he was buried in an unmarked grave in one cemetery, another that his remains were in another, unidentified cemetery.  The Church had no plans of trying to find the grave.

A fire at the smaller Cathedral of Our Lady of the Don made it necessary to undertake an extensive renovation of the church.  In the process of this renovation, a grave marker was found, but there was no body under the stone.  It was thought that perhaps the burial place was to one side or another of the stone.  A search of the area proved fruitless.  But under the stone was a large heating pipe that appeared to be intact.  An archeological expert examined the site and noticed that in fact the pipe, not detectable to the untrained eye, had indeed been disturbed.  The pipe was removed and beneath it, covered by earth, was a grave vault.  The vault was opened and the casket of Saint Tikhon was discovered there.  On the casket was a plaque identifying it as the casket of the Saint.  Those who buried the Saint took special pains to keep his body and his burial place secure and safe.

The finding of the Saint’s grave was a miracle.  The presence of the Representative of the OCA at the opening of the grave was another sign of God’s providence.  By chance I had called Father Matrfey Stadniuk to discuss the schedule of services for the weekend.  He was in his office for only for a few minutes – and that was when I called.  He told me to be at the Donskoy Monastery for a Molieben.  It appears that the person who was to have informed me simply forgot to do so.

An Act of the Opening of the Grave was signed by the Patriarch, the hierarchs, clergy and lay persons present.  My name and my wife’s name appear on the document.  I obtained a piece of wood from the top of the Saint’s casket.

O Holy Father Patriarch Tikhon, pray unto God for us!