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St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary is an institution of professional Orthodox Christian theological education, chartered by the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America. In a rural environment conducive to spiritual growth and academic study, the Seminary nurtures the theological vocations of its students and faculty, who share the unique opportunity of learning and teaching Orthodox theology in the framework of their daily experience of a rich heritage of Russian Orthodox spiritual and liturgical tradition.
The primary mission of the Seminary lies in providing the necessary theological, liturgical, spiritual and moral foundations for Orthodox men to become, as God so wills, good shepherds of His Holy Orthodox Church. At the same time, however, the Seminary also recognizes that many individuals choose to enroll in a professional theological training program for the fulfillment of needs other than those of ordained ministry. Among these are: preparation for general religious leadership responsibilities in parishes and other settings; advanced theological study; specialized ministry as religious educators or choir directors; personal spiritual enrichment. Therefore, St. Tikhon’s Seminary continues to support all honorable reasons for matriculation at the Seminary and participation in class.
In the 200-year history of Orthodoxy in America, Orthodox theological education has always had to face and meet special missionary challenges. The living tradition of Orthodox spiritual life, however, firmly and deeply rooted in the Church’s experience in the Old World, remains for us a source of inspiration and energy, courage and wisdom, patience and tolerance, and moves us to do the work of God in the twenty-first century. The mission of the Seminary, as essentially and historically understood by all Seminary constituencies, is to provide quality theological education, including personal, spiritual and pastoral formation, to those who would be priests of the Orthodox Church, to enable the Church Herself, in turn, to successfully carry out Her Divinely-ordained task in contemporary society. The Seminary has accepted this understanding of its mission as a mandate to provide educative and formational experiences to future priests and others in leadership roles as determined not only by accreditation standards, but also by ordination requirements specified by the canons of the Orthodox Church. This challenges us to examine not only an applicant’s educational background, but also to look substantively at what is to be found in the heart of the student: his love for and desire to serve God, his life experience and spiritual maturity, promise and/or capacity for leadership in the Church.
The Seminary and the Monastery: A Symbiotic Relationship
Throughout the centuries, the great Christian abbeys and monasteries of Europe have forged and nurtured uniquely symbiotic and synergistic relationships between monastic endeavor and theological scholarship. The relationship between St. Tikhon’s Monastery and St. Tikhon’s Seminary is a prime example of that great tradition. The special accord of spirit, interdependency and mission that are shared by the monastery and the theological school have been traditional in Orthodoxy for at least a thousand years.
Orthodox theological education, rooted deeply in the Christian mystical and spiritual tradition, was safeguarded and passed down through the centuries by the monastic community, and revived in the eleventh century by one of the great mystics and theologians of the Orthodox Church, St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022). This revival providentially coincided with the beginning of the great Orthodox missionary effort among the Slavic peoples, especially those of Ancient Rus’ and Russia, and was eventually brought by them to North America.
Theological knowledge can never be seen as merely the acquisition of academic information about matters ecclesial and theological. On the contrary, by its very nature, all theological knowledge is rooted in the soul of man, from whence his intelligence springs, and in the relationship that exists between man and his Creator. In this lies the great insight of the mystic theologians. True theological education is thus, first of all, the acceptance of the highest spiritual knowledge—the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Theological schools do not offer a course of study about God as such, as might be taken about man, his anatomy and his nature; they offer, instead, a course of study about the relationship between God and man. In theological education the ultimate goal is to fulfill the evangelical mandate: “Come and follow Me and I will make you fishers of men… Go into the whole world, preach the Gospel, teach, and baptize in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The knowledge of God the Holy Trinity is, at once, the object of theological inquiry and also its means, or methodology. Through the simple act of beginning every discourse or study with prayer, the theological school proclaims that its first—and ultimately, its only goal—is to teach the student to draw nearer to God. The only certain way to accomplish that goal is by means of study that begins and ends in dialogue with God. Indeed, a person is not a theologian unless he not only knows about prayer, but actually prays. A theologian, in short, is nothing more than a good Christian who prays, studies and acts, and then continues to pray. It is in close association with the place of prayer par excellence, the monastery, that the seminarian finds himself in the environment which is most conducive to the development of his spiritual life, without which any theological or pastoral effort would be in vain. To that end, St. Tikhon’s Seminary and St. Tikhon’s Monastery strive to maintain a well defined and mutually fulfilling relationship, one altogether natural in the Orthodox Church.
Christ the Divine Teacher
Christ the Divine Teacher
During the early years of its history, when higher authorities in Russia rendered financial assistance to Orthodox theological education in America, St. Tikhon’s Monastery played an essential role by providing preparatory coursework to individuals who would later apply for formal seminary training at St. Platon’s Seminary in Tenafly, New Jersey. When funding from Russia ended because of the Revolution, and St. Platon’s Seminary was forced in 1923 to close its doors, St Tikhon’s Monastery became once again the only place in America where one could receive an Orthodox theological education.
Founded in 1938 as a Pastoral School by resolution of the 6th All-American Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America (North American Metropolia), the Seminary has historically grown on the fertile soil of the Orthodox faith, supported by the deep faith and love of several generations of Orthodox people, nourished by its Russian Orthodox roots, and reaching into the deep-flowing waters of a 2000-year spiritual and cultural tradition. Officially transformed from a Pastoral School into a Seminary by the Holy Synod of the Metropolia in 1942, the Seminary has visibly progressed along the educational path determined by its founders.
With the establishment of its own printing and publishing house, St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, the Seminary has expanded its missionary and teaching efforts to the larger community by making available a range of theological and and liturgical works and texts for the general advancement of Orthodox theological knowledge and scholarship. St Tikhon's Bookstore provides its services to students, faculty, clergy and visitors.
A vibrant and integral part of the Orthodox Church in America, St. Tikhon’s Seminary continues to this day to fulfill the assigned task of educating and preparing candidates for the Holy Priesthood, as well as those pursuing other callings in the Church. If the future is to be based on past performance, with God’s blessings we can expect continued growth and spiritual enrichment in the total life of the Seminary, and in its contribution to the life of the community—a growth nurtured and sustained in part by St. Tikhon’s Monastery, and with the generous support of the Orthodox faithful.
Thus, from the time of the beginning of its program of theological studies in 1938, because of its unique relationship with the Monastery, St. Tikhon’s Seminary has gradually emerged as a significant center of Orthodox theological education and spiritual formation, an integral part of already 200 years of Orthodox life in North America, a direct continuation of 1000 years of Christian life in the lands of Holy Rus’, itself united through the great Hierarchs, Teachers and Fathers to the Apostles and to the greatest spiritual and theological Educator of All—Jesus Christ, the Divine Teacher, sent by the Father into the world to save and redeem mankind.