November 19, 2015

Saint Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow (+ 1867)

St. Philaret of Moscow (Feast Day - November 19)

One of the most outstanding hierarchs of the Russian Church in any century, he was born Basil Drozdov, the son of a priest. Although small in stature he stood out among his fellow students at the St Sergius-Holy Trinity Seminary by reason of his lively intelligence and genuine piety. His early talent for preaching brought him to the attention of Metropolitan Platon of Moscow, who said of him, "I give sermons like a man, but he speaks like an angel."

In 1808 he received the monastic tonsure with the name Philaret, after Saint Philaret the Almsgiver. After being ordained to the diaconate, he taught Greek, Hebrew, and rhetoric at the St Petersburg Theological Academy, where he prevailed upon the authorities to have courses taught in Russian rather than in Latin. This concern to make the understanding of Orthodoxy as accessible as possible motivated many of his subsequent undertakings in the course of his fifty years in the episcopal rank. He was responsible for having Holy Scripture translated into Russian, and he himself wrote a Catechism, which has remained a standard text of the Russian Church ever since its initial publication in 1823.

As Metropolitan of Moscow, Philaret succeeded in having restored some measure of independence from the State, which the Church had lost in the "reforms" of Peter the Great. He labored to improve the caliber of seminaries and theological schools, and he gave crucial support to the spiritual revival generated by Saint Paisius Velichkovsky and his monastic followers, at a time when many hierarchs and clergy looked askance at the institution of eldership, or "starchestvo", and the practice of unceasing prayer which this revival prompted. Metropolitan Philaret's own spiritual father was a close disciple of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, and although Philaret kept concealed his inner life, its excellence is manifest in the various miracles wrought by his prayers: a girl dumb for thirteen years began to speak, a merchant was spared the necessity of having his arm amputated, an eight-year-old paralyzed girl began to walk, and so on.

Metropolitan Philaret reposed 19 November 1867, being forewarned of the date two months earlier by his father in a dream.

In his theological writings, Metropolitan Philaret often focused on the life of grace that is opened to believers in Christ. It is clear that he himself experienced this grace while still in this temporal world, and certain that he now enjoys it in the fullest measure in the company of the saints.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Having acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit, O divinely wise and holy hierarch Philaret, , you preached truth and righteousness to the people with enlightened understanding; with a contrite heart you showed peace and mercy to the suffering; and as a teacher and tireless guardian of the Faith, with the staff of uprightness you preserved the Russian flock. Therefore, as you have boldness before Christ our God, pray that He preserve the Church and grant salvation to the people and our souls.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
As a true imitator of the venerable Sergius; you loved virtue from childhood, O divinely blessed Philaret. As a righteous pastor and blameless confessor, you were subject to mockery and abuse by the ungodly after your holy repose, but God has glorified you with signs and miracles, and shown you to be the helper of our Church.