Today is the feast-day of St. Tikhon of Kaluga, a fifteenth century Russian saint, who, according to the brief vita on the OCA daily saints’ page, left his native Moscow in order to live in a great hollow oak out in the hinterlands. Apparently this oak was on royal property and St. Tikhon had not bothered to secure a residency permit. When the prince holding title to the oak tree and its environs threatened to run the saint off however, the prince found himself suddenly incapacitated and St. Tikhon got to stay…
I particularly love saints like this, whether they were living in old trees or hanging out with wild deer, who express a deep and innocent ‘return to nature’; in the case of the saint, a quite literal return or restoration and transfiguration of nature, both within himself and within the world surrounding him, of which he is in fact a part, and to which Christ has united Himself and exalted with Himself into glory. The saint realizes, albeit in a local and limited manner, this glorification, and hence one of the important functions of hagiography across Christian traditions is to emphasize the transformation of the natural world especially through the presence of the saint.
St. Tikhon the Tree-Dweller, pray for us!
(On a rather tangentially related note- East Tennessee was also home to at least one hollow tree dweller, though presumably not a particularly saintly one, one Big Foot Spencer.)