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November 22, 2009

Glorification of Saint Philaret of Chernigov

For pictures and information about the glorification of St. Philaret, see here.

Short Biography of Saint Philaret Humilevsky of Chernigov

Finally, one of the great Orthodox Fathers and Teachers living in the 19th century was glorified a saint, Philaret (Humilevsky), Archbishop of Chernihiv (whose feast day will be August 22nd).

St Philaret belonged to the “group of the three Holy Philarets” of that time which included St Philaret Metropolitan of Kyiv and St Philaret Metropolitan of Moscow.

Born Dmitry Hrihorievich Humilevsky in 1805 as a son of a priest, he received his surname (in truth, his real family name was “Konobeiv”) in theseminary as a play on the word “humility” owing to his short stature and humble character. Having completed his seminary studies with the highest possible scholarly acclamations, he was tonsured a monk as “Philaret” and was appointed Theology and History professor. Since he read widely, he could teach numerous theological and secular subjects and was not only an accomplished historian but also an archaeologist.

He founded the academic journal The Writings of the Holy Fathers: Translated From the Ancient Languages. In 1841, he was consecrated as Bishop of Riga in Latvia.

While in the Baltic countries, he was sympathetic to the desire of the Latvians and Estonians to have spiritual literature available to them in their own national languages. Philaret the scholar then went back to his study desk and soon mastered those languages himself. He also expected Orthodox priests working in Latvia and Estonia to be fluent in all three Baltic languages and began translating and publishing religious literature for his Baltic flock.

In 1848, St Philaret was transferred to Kharkiv in Ukraine and in 1857 he was consecrated as Archbishop and assigned to Chernihiv where he continued to upgrade the theological and cultural education and development of his flock.

It was in Chernihiv that the Holy Hierarch Philaret produced his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology and his History of the Church of Rus’ as well as a volume on literature.

A great practitioner of the Jesus Prayer and reader of Holy Scripture, St Philaret was an ascetic in the best traditions of Orthodox Patristic spirituality. His great devotion to study earned him the respect of both religious and secular scholars of his day. And he came by his new surname quite naturally.

His deeply moving spirituality and humility can be seen in his eyes in the pictures of him that are extant. Covered in the robes of his high Archiepiscopal office with Crosses and Panaghias hanging from his shoulders with many books and papers in his hands, St Philaret’s “heart-piercing” piety made a great spiritual impression on his flock throughout Eastern Europe.

No wonder tens of thousands lined the streets and roads to pay their last respects to their great Pastor during his funeral and begin his local veneration that has continued to this day, culminating in his formal Glorification as a new Hierarch-Saint of our Church on October 25, 2009!