Elder Tikhon’s Fish Soup and His Friendship with Heaven

From childhood, Elder Tikhon was accustomed to xerophagy and practised it to an old age, considering cooking tasty meals a waste of time. When he was treated to a delicious dish, he did not feel anything special, because earthly things no longer delighted him. In conversations with people, he always spoke about heaven, and his eyes filled with tears of happiness.

Father Paisios once recalled seeing the elder cut in halves a small fig offered to him. Eating one of the halves, he  exclaimed in surprise:

 – Oh my child, this is so much!

“I knew that I needed at least a kilogram to stay my stomach.” Father Paisios remarked.

Already in his old age, he would stock up for Christmas with one single fish, and when he scaled it, he would keep the bone and dry it on a rope. On big holidays, when fish was allowed, he would pour some water into a tin can, heat it up and dip the dried bone into it several times. Then he would add a pinch of rice to his “fish” soup, and when he ate it, he reproached himself for the great sin of indulging in fish soup while living in the desert.  After that he hung the fish bone back on the rope and used it for the next holiday.

When the elder was sent alms or food, he accepted and then sent it  to other hermits on Kapsala, giving all the money to a pious merchant in Karyes, who used it to buy bread and distribute it to the poor.

There was no church in Elder Tikhon’s kaliva, and he had a great desire to build one. As he did not have the means for this, he resorted to fervent prayer, asking the Lord to help him in this good deed. Once after prayer, the elder went to Karyes, with a warm hope that God, seeing his need, would send him help. On his way there, he met the Dean of the Russian Skete of St Elias, who said, “One benefactor sent me money to give to someone who does not have a church. Since you don’t have one, you can take it for your construction”.  The delighted elder, gave thanks to God and prayed with tears for his unknown benefactor, asking the Lord to forgive him all his sins.

Fr Tikhon was living blissfully in the quiet of his cell, where he felt the closeness of Heaven and where he was honored with frequent visits from the Heavenly world, which, in his humility, he avoided speaking about. When they asked him if he was alone in the desert, the elder answered simply, “No, I live with angels and archangels, with the saints, the Mother of God and with the Lord Jesus Christ”.

“Once,” Father Paisios recalls, “I came to visit the elder him and found him hanging upside down on his porch. He stumbled as he was walking up the stairs, and the edge of his cassock caught on the door, stopping the elder from falling off the staircase. When I helped him to get out of this difficult situation, I could not help asking what he would have done if I had not showed up at the right hour?

Father Tikhon looked at me in bewilderment and answered, “Then the Guardian Angel would come and help me get out”. He lived in friendship with Heaven and with his Guardian Angel.”

In the elder’s cell, there was a large crucifixion with the forthcoming Mother of God and St John the Apostle. Washing this holy cross with his purest tears, Fr Tikhon once wrote a prayer, addressing Holy Golgotha as if it were alive:

“O Holy Divine Golgotha, sanctified by the Blood of Jesus Christ! Reveal, I implore you, how many thousands of sinners you have led to repentance and tears by the grace of God, cleansing them and opening for them the doors of heaven. O Christ the Heavenly King! With Your grace and boundless love You fill the Heavenly Abodes with the souls of those who have repented before You! You have the mercy that saves everyone who comes to You. Even an angelic wisdom cannot think of a way to express our due gratitude to You. Blessed are the sinners who come to Holy Golgotha, open to everyone, for our Christ is exceedingly merciful! Fall at His holy feet and venerate them with pure love, for He is the only One who can heal your sorrowful souls and water them with saving tears, so that you wash with them His most pure feet in humility and with repentant love. Then He Himself will wash you from all impurity and open the doors for you to His Heavenly Kingdom, where you will join the archangels and angels, cherubim and seraphim and all the saints in blessed eternity glorifying in inexpressible joy the Savior of the world, our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God,  together with the Father and the Holy Spirit – the Consubstantial and Inseparable Trinity! Amen!


Father Tikhon. The last great Russian elder on Athos. Holy Trinity Sergius Lavra, 1997
Holy Mount Athos. 2008 Orthodox Calendar. – Minsk: St Elisabeth Convent, 2007

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