Bishop Tikhon, Memory Eternal

It is with a sad heart that I tell you Bishop Tikhon has passed.

I met His Grace back in 2003 on the Forum and later we connected on the Indiana List.  Over the years,  I became proficient in understanding “Tikhonese”, because he’d always leave bread crumbs when he’d say something in passing.  After a few moments, you’d say to yourself,  “Now, wait a minute.  What did he say?”  I gleaned a lot of information that way.

He was fiercely loyal.  Loyal to a fault.  When I would get into deep water with some of the debates we had on-line, he would give me a way out.  Kind of like when an opponent falls, you offer him your hand.  He loved sparing with people.  And he could be cantankerous!   Frankly, you had to have a pretty thick skin to engaged him.  One time we got into it online and he said no one had spanked him like that since he was 6 years old, or something to that effect. 

I took it as a win.

He had an interesting life.  He sent me a picture of him in his Kerouac days (or somebody did).  He looked like a beatnik!   

Bishop Tikhon had great stories to share if you caught him in the mood to tell them.  He’d tell stories about his past like when he was in the air force, and he was selected to be the body guard of Trisha and Julie Nixon.  When it came time for him to meet them, he purposely didn’t shower for 3 days so they wouldn’t want him!  That sort of nixed the deal.

He once emailed me a Persian story of a young man who couldn’t marry young woman and the travails they went through to be together.  He sent me poetry he liked, as well.  For whatever reason, he was very taken with Persia.  I wish I had saved these things.

He’d recommend books and as I recall, one of the them was almost irreverent in terms of the Church!  But it was typical of how he looked at things.  He could see the cracks and love the Church anyway.   

He watched my “growing up” in the Church and would point out my mistakes sometimes with glee.  Kind of a “haha.”  The last time he did this was few years ago, but I think he just corrected my spelling.  In years past he would have made a spectacle of it.  His way of playing.  I guess he had mellowed.

He was fun to play with, too.  I once remarked (God forgive me) that too many of the clergy hide their girth under their robes.  He was quite insulted and sent me pictures of him standing sideways so I could see he wasn’t one of them.    

He loved music.  One of his favorite singers was Adele.  I want to say his favorite song of hers was “Turning Tables,” but I could be wrong.  Oh, he would hate me guessing like this!  I remember he didn’t like my choice which was, “Rolling in the Deep.”

One of our last exchanges was about dying.  He said when it was his time to go he hoped to hear the angels sing.  I told him when it was that time, I would specifically pray for that.  George and I just prayed for those angels in front of our altar.  

Memory eternal, Your Grace.  You will be missed. 



  1. Antiochene Son says
    • Gail Sheppard says

      Yes! He took these things very seriously. Thank you, AS!

      • Solidarity Priest says

        Yes, he did, Gail. And he also recognized the ROCOR defrocking of Deacon Lev Puhalo. For that alone I respect him. I wish the OCA Synod of Bishops might have listened to him on this. To be fair, most of the current OCA bishops weren’t bishops when that mess went down. Eternal Memory!

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Me, too. He was the only bishop who didn’t support it.

          I heard (not form him) that the reason the other OCA bishops wanted Lazar is because he was speaking out against Toll Houses. He had another theory call “soul sleep,” but this is not something the Church teaches. It was the reason he was deposed by the MP because they told him to stop and he didn’t.

          I don’t like the idea of Toll Houses but it is what the Church teaches and one cannot dismiss something the Church teaches just because you don’t like it.

          • Alexander II says

            “Toll Houses” are not universally accepted in the Church. It is not a dogma, despite the fact that among a good many who supported and argued in favor of the notion are glorified as saints and those that argued against it (e.g., Puhalo), not exactly the soundest of “theologians.”

            I, a nobody, do not believe that Toll Houses represent an accurate conceptualization of Orthodox after-death theology. And if there is some seed of correctness in the idea, it certainly is not a rigid, literal, legalistic, neo-Roman Catholic 20 step process.

            Maybe this is a topic that a true non-paper shuffling council can one day – century or millennia – address.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              I didn’t say it was universally accepted. There is a lot of freedom in the Orthodox Church. I said it’s what the Church teaches and it was the reason Lazar was deposed.

              • Solidarity Priest says

                Actually, Gail, the teaching of the Toll Houses isn’t a dogma of the church. It is a widely held pious belief. And to the best of my knowledge, Puhalo was told by the ROCOR Synod of Bishops to stop pushing his alternate theory as if IT were a dogma of the church. I also recall Puhalo was deposed for leaving ROCOR without a blessing. Perhaps someone from ROCOR who knows the situation better would care to comment.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  It is the reason given for the Dormition which the Church teaches. Christ took the Theotokos so she could avoid the toll houses.

                  I realize some condemn it, but even Wikipedia says it’s so. (I’m smiling as I say that!)

                  You are correct about Lazar, though. He was deposed for pushing “soul sleep,” which he made up. And it would make sense he didn’t leave with a blessing as there were other issues going on. Plus, he was told to stop teaching Soul Sleep but continued.

                  Modern elders, theologians and ROCOR teach Toll Houses. (Frankly, I like Lazar’s belief better but one doesn’t get to choose.) I intend not to address those powers should I encounter them. They can accuse me all they want, but I don’t have to answer them. – Our guardian angels will be with us. They can answer them for us. God forgives.)

                  • If anyone needed to NOT worry about going through the toll houses it would be the Theotokos . She’d pass through real quick. Not that I’m convinced this is true…..

                • The book on the matter produced by Saint Anthony’s Monastery is the final word on the matter, as far as I am concerned. The sheer weight of materials presented show that, although not a conciliar-defined dogma, it is the teaching that the Church presents through its saints, liturgical texts, etc.

                  • Alexander II says

                    “… although not a conciliar-defined dogma …”

                    Enough said.

                    • Conciliar minimalism isn’t Orthodoxy. The councils are one part of Holy Tradition. The councils were used to to articulate and define doctrines about which controversy had erupted, not every point of the faith, which is contained in the writings of the saints, liturgical texts, etc., i.e. the entirety of Holy Tradition.

                    • Antiochene Son says

                      Anything written in our universal liturgical texts is dogmatic.

                      Orthodoxy does not mean open season on everything not defined by an ecumenical council.

                    • The Theotokos going thru the toll houses is found in St. John Maximovitch book on The Birthgiver of God. The ROCOR was really big on toll houses but Met Hierotheos Vlachos streamlined tollhouses since the Greek and Russian view of tollhouse differed in many areas. The Greek version the pious pass thru and demons are even repelled.. Today’s predominate tollhouse belief is basically a composite of the two. In the texts of the church and stories of the saints; demons can torment souls, angels and apostles can carry souls joyously to heaven, battles take place in the skys if the stories are geared towards warrior people like the ancient celts etc. If you ever read St Gregory’s Dialogues BK IV written in the 6th century the stories run the gamut including interpretations of tollhouses unheard of before, this includes demons sent at moment of death for the living surrounding the deathbed and not for the deceased, a tug of war between angels and demons based on the virtue of alms which would make the deceased ascend while his love of carnal pleasure would sink him to a toxic dump, and even chanting and the presence of saints for the pious deathbed and ultimately carried to heaven in victory

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      You said this, beautifully.

                      There is a tale about this and it’s one of my favorites.

                      “Once upon a time there was a woman, and she was wicked as wicked could be, and she died. And not one good deed was left behind her. The devils took her and threw her into the lake of fire. And her guardian angel stood thinking: what good deed of hers can I remember to tell God?

                      Then he remembered and said to God, “Once she pulled up an onion and gave it to a beggar woman.”

                      And God answered, “Now take that same onion, hold it out to her in the lake, let her take hold of it, and pull, and if you pull her out of the lake, she can go to paradise, but if the onion breaks, she can stay where she is.”

                      The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her, “Here, woman,” he said, “take hold of it and I’ll pull!”

                      And he began pulling carefully , and had almost pulled her all the way out, when other sinners in the lake saw her being pulled out and all began holding on to her so as to be pulled out with her. But the woman was wicked as wicked could be, and she began to kick them with her feet: “It’s me who’s getting pulled out, not you; it’s my onion not yours!”

                      Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov 1880


                    • This may be helpful.

                      Something that widely attested to is catholic. I’ve heard some say it is a theologoumenon but given its appearance in the Fathers, liturgical texts and the Octoechos, I do not see on what basis it can be dismissed.

                    • The devil is in the details, as they say. If you ask any faithful Orthodox person if they believe in the personal judgment, they will say yes. The Toll Houses are simply an elaboration of the mechanisms and actors involved. There is really no convenient place to delineate, “we believe this much of it but not everything written about it.”. The evidence is plentiful, but inexact. So all we can say is that “something like X” happens.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      One of the things that struck me when I became Orthodox is that there are many, many things you just accept.

                    • The best thing ever written on the subject of Toll Houses can be found here. The author, as many will know, is as traditional as they come.


                      One must read the entirety to get the “full flavor” (as it were), but a key section reads:

                      The teaching concerning the Particular Judgement of God enters into the sphere of Orthodox dogmatic theology. As for the toll-houses, Russian writers of general systems of theology limit themselves to a rather stereotyped note: “Concerning all the sensual, earthly images by which the Particular Judgement is presented in the form of the toll-houses, although in their fundamental idea they are completely true, still they should be accepted in the way that the angel instructed Saint Macarius of Alexandria, being only the weakest means of depicting heavenly things.”

                      But again, I would urge serious inquirers into the subject to read the entire article.

                  • The bodily assumption of the Mother of God into Heaven isn’t a conciliar dogma either…but there’s no doubt it’s what the Orthodox Church believes. It’s in the services!

                    • Alexander II says

                      To Basil: not sure I understand what is meant by “conciliar minimalism,” but you are correct about Tradition and the place of councils in resolving controversies. No question. In my view, this is controversial in the manner in which it is proffered by its proponents, then contorted, and then expanded this past century or so.

                      We don’t believe in purgatory and the manner in which many argue for Toll Houses quacks and waddles an awful lot like purgatory.

                      I’ll defer to the Solitary Priest who affirmed that it is not dogma.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      I didn’t say this before but in the Orthodox Church there is no “dogma” accept the Nicene Creed and the canons of the seven ecumenical councils so it kind of doesn’t make sense to talk about this in those terms. Its not a heresy, like purgatory, and few, if any, practicing Orthodox Christians totally dismiss it whether they know it or not because of the prayers we say for the dead at 40 days.

                      Our practice is to pray for the dead on the 3rd, 9th and 40th day which I believe the Catholics do, as well. On the 9th day, the Orthodox believe that the soul goes through some kind of self-examination.

                      St. Macarius of Alexandria, discussing the state of man’s soul after the death of the body, says: “After the second adoration, the Master of all commands that the soul be led to hell and that it be shown the places of torment there, the various parts of hell, and the diverse tortures of the wicked, in which the souls of sinners ceaselessly wail and gnash their teeth. The soul is borne about these various places of torment for thirty days, trembling lest it itself be imprisoned therein.”

                      Even St. John Maximovich taught the Toll Houses which might shock some.

                      The practice of the Church follows the teaching of the Church and because we ask the Lord’s grace for Him to “conquer the enemy, the dark prince of the air,” throughout the 40 days, it suggests the Church teaches we confront the enemy. Our guardian angel hangs in there with us until we are united with heaven and with God and advocates for us so we are not alone.

                      I think it’s wise for people to ponder this and remember the following:

                      “The Lord remained silent before Pilate and Herod; He made no attempt to justify Himself. You must imitate His holy and wise silence when you see that your enemies accuse you, with every intention of certain conviction; they accuse only with the purpose of hiding their own evil intention under the guise of judgement.”

                      + St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, The Cup of Christ

                    • Alexander II says

                      To Gail:

                      Yes, we do all that. Saints said and wrote things. And, no, it’s not in the Nicene Creed.

                      I’ve tried to make two simple points. First, the Toll House concept is not as precisely or firmly established in the teachings of the Church as many assert. That appears to be a bone of contention here. Yes, we pray for the souls of the departed, as I’ve understood it because the belief is that the souls can no longer pray for themselves.

                      The second point is that to the extent there is some post-mortem “testing” of our souls, the 20 step process described in the writings seems impossibly complicated and detailed. A symbolic, allegorical, motivational, “get serious while you still can,” tool, perhaps.

                      I’d like to think that I’m not a “cafeteria” Orthodox. But if being skeptical about a highly defined 20 step process makes me that, then I guess I am and have added an extra Toll House that my already wretched soul will have to endure.

                      Thanks for the patience. Nothing further from me on this.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Fr, would you consider the Toll Houses to be a theologoumenon? To my untrained theological mind, that’s the only way I can make sense of it. Perhaps a future Council will rule on it?

                  I ask this because its increasing popularity (and the fact that it’s in liturgical funerary texts) makes it necessary for there to be a doctrinal ruling one way or the other.

                  Anyway, your thoughts as a priest would be most welcome on this matter.

                  • George,

                    I would make a couple of clarifications first, if I may. People here are discussing “dogma” and “doctrine”, et al. There is one standard in the Orthodox Catholic Church and that is Holy Tradition, the Life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The way we discern that Holy Tradition is by ascertaining whether a belief is catholic or not. “Catholic”, in this instance, does not mean “Roman Catholic”, which is a heretical sect. “Catholic” means “of the whole”; i.e., the greatest common denominator according to antiquity and universality. To paraphrase certain Fathers: When a thing has been widely believed throughout the Orthodox Church dating back to antiquity – there, you have it, search no further, for that is the catholic faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church – because a belief could not have been disseminated so widely from antiquity were it not grounded in the witness of the Apostles.

                  • Solidarity Priest says

                    Yes, George, I do consider it a theologoumenon. When I said it wasn’t a dogma, that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in it personally. I tend to follow what real Saints like John of San Fransico wrote and believed, as you pointed out it is found in the funeral service.
                    I want to point out that we aren’t Papists, demanding something written down for every little thing the church does. Nor are we Protestants who proclaim, “That’s not what the Bible says,” though the church is older than the Bible as we know it.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Thank you Fr for expressing it in terms an Orthodox layman can understand.

                    • That seems to be where it sits today – at that divergence of opinion as to its complete catholicity, i.e., as a theologoumenon. I’m not aware of any traditionalists who treat the teaching negatively, though I’m not aware of everything every traditionalist has written.

                      I consider it Orthodox teaching (i.e., doctrine). But, of course, it is murky because of the various ways it is described in the Tradition – basically an elaboration of the particular judgment.

                      In fact, some consider this to be a direct reference to the doctrine.

  2. James Morgan aka jimofolym says

    Memory Eternal, Vladika!
    I attended the cathedral in Los Angeles for a number of years. Later on after I moved to Washington state, I was surprised when he made me a ‘Facebook friend’. Oh yes, and he had tonsured me as a Reader. I’m very grateful to him in many ways.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Of course he would know you James! You were on those lists with us, as I recall. I didn’t know he tonsured you as a Reader. That’s wonderful.

  3. Memory eternal, Vladyka.

    A stickler, for sure. Not really the lovey-dovey type….. About 20 years ago I was attending an OCA parish on the West Coast, where Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald was the presiding bishop. His archpastoral visit to the parish was coming up, and everyone, from the priest/pastor on down, was *terrified.* It was so funny and bizarre at the same time!

    Often archpastoral visits to parishes are viewed with love and welcoming, but this one was full of terror. No one was allowed to sing in the choir without attending the specified reharsals for the bishop’s visit. It was all very odd, sort of PTSD-esque.

    But I suppose even the Orthodox world needs bishops like him. Honestly, thank God for Vladyka Tikhon F. as a bishop in San Francisco as a counterweight to the transgender lesbian “bishops” the Episcopalians or the ELCA has out there.

    Memory eternal, Vladyka!

  4. Austin Martin says

    He also condemned the NRSV. Based.

    I had a friend trying to decide to go Catholic or Orthodox. I showed him that and pointed out that the Catholics have made it their main translations.

  5. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Rest in peace, my good bishop. You were fun to spar with back in the day. Thanks for the bottle of whiskey. You were a man of your word. Godspeed.


    • Gail Sheppard says

      I remember the Whisky thing. You won a bet with him. But I can’t recall what it was about. It was fun to watch because he wasn’t often wrong!

      • Solidarity Priest says

        I believe the bet was about Trump winning in 2016. While His Grace was politically a liberal, on matters of Orthodoxy, he stood on much firmer ground. I seem to remember him taking heat because he wouldn’t serve a memorial service for Pope John Paul II. Something else I give him credit for.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          I think you’re right! I later made the argument to him that he could not talk against Trump because Trump was Commander and Chief of the whole military and there is a rule in the Air Force, that he promised to uphold, that he could not talk against a commanding officer. Something to that effect. He argued with me a bit but there was nothing that could stop him from making fun of Trump.

  6. Michael Bauman says

    George and Father,
    I can only testify to what I have been given to see. On March 5th 2005 my wife of 24 years, Pamela, reposed in the Lord.

    In the hospital where she lay comatose, our priest and two Chanters were there praying for here. It went on for quite awhile. About half way through, I was standing there with my son and some friends, praying along. About half way through I saw a Angel standing at her head. The angel had a deeply intense look on his face. It seemed as if he was praying for her/with her helping her to repent. As soon as Pamela reposed, the angel vanished.

    20 days later was Pascha (new calendar). I went to the Celebration deep in grief. I was still praying for my wife. Suddenly as we began to sing Christ is Risen, I saw two figures over the Altar, not large but very bright persons of Light. As we continue to sing Christ is Risen, I saw my wife and her Guardian angel be raised to heaven in bright garments.
    My late wife was one who knew the wiles of the evil one well. Together with her Guardian, if there are Toll Houses, they did not spend much time at any of them.

    ….Trampling down death by death….

    That was 18 years ago. Yet those moments are clear in my mind and heart. It shows me that the Mercy of our Lord prevails.

    My late wife had sins on her conscience she had not confessed. She was in deep pain, spiritually and physically on the day she reposed, yet our Lord opened the way for her. Through the prayers of the Church, the Intercessions of the Mother Mary and the incredible Mercy of our Lord, what was meant to her for evil was transformed for salvation..

    I don’t care what the mechanism of that gift is, I really do not care what it is. Not do I have any doubt of Jesus’ victory over death if we submit to His Love. Glory be to God.