Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Life of St. Philaret

General Sharing what was sent to me: "Life of St. Philaret, Metropolitan of New York", and "Instructions for an Orthodox Christian"


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Dan Everiss

Sun, Nov 20, 2016 at 9:22 PM

"The righteous are in everlasting remembrance, their praise is from age to age!"

The Life of Our Holy Father Among the Saints PHILARET
Metropolitan of New York & Eastern America

THE HOLY HIERARCH PHILARET (in the world George Nicolaevich Voznesensky) was born in the city of Kursk on 22nd March / 4th April, 1903, into a pious Orthodox family. His father, the Archpriest Nicolas Voznesensky, was from a family of priests, and he was a zealous pastor and great man of prayer. Subsequently he was tonsured a monk with the name Demetrius, and became a Bishop (later Archbishop of Hailar).
There were five children in the family of Lydia and Nicolas Voznesensky, two sons and three daughters. From his very infancy the young George grew up in an atmosphere of Christian love and church-centredness. When he was about six or seven, he already loved to play “at services.”
In 1909, the Voznesensky family moved to the Far East, to Blagoveshchensk on the Amur. There George completed the eight-year grammar school course. As soon as the government in Priamur fell into the hands of the atheistic and theomachistic powers, the family of the future hierarch re-settled in Harbin. At that time Harbin was a provincial Russian town, where the old patriarchal traditions and church life were being maintained. In the town there were 26 Orthodox churches, which, on the church festivals, overflowed with the faithful.
In Harbin, George continued his education at the Polytechnic Institute. At this time he became acquainted with the works of the holy hierarch Ignatii Brianchaninov. The teaching of the Saint concerning the Christian life and concerning the constant remembrance of death evinced in the soul of the young man a real spiritual conversion. From this time on, life in the world ceased to interest him. In 1930, George was ordained to the order of the diaconate, and in 1931 a priest. In the same year, Father George completed the pastoral-theological course, and he received the monastic tonsure with the name Philaret in honour of Saint Philaret the Merciful, which, as it were, fore-ordained the course of his earthly life as a Christian: the heart of Vladyka Philaret was a heart of mercifulness.
Gradually in the House of Kindheartedness, where Father Philaret had received the monastic tonsure, a monastic community was formed. Daily services, the reading of the Holy Fathers, instructing the children in the orphanage and in Harbin’s schools in their catechism - such was the daily round that occupied the brethren. The spiritual guide of Hieromonk Philaret in those years was the Most Blessed Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) who, although he did not know him personally, nonetheless had a particularly heartfelt bond with him. Singling him out from among the number of the brethren, the Staretz-Metropolitan had a specially warm love for him and corresponded with him to the very end of his life in 1936.
Father Philaret truly had a merciful heart. He was accessible to all, he comforted and guided each one who came to him. Everything he had, and sometimes even his clothes, he would give away to those in need. Possessed of a great love for the word of God, Fr Philaret knew the whole Gospels from memory. One of the places in the Sacred Scriptures that the future hierarch loved best were the words of the Lord which denounced the lukewarmness of Christians in their faith. He loved to repeat that love for God, for Christ, must come in the first place: “Deny yourself and all that is close to your heart, and follow after Christ! This is the main thing!” The reverence of his serving and the sermons of this true pastor filled the churches with worshippers. The name of Father Philaret was known far and wide to the very borders of the Harbin eparchy. In 1933 he was appointed Hegoumen, and in 1937 Archimandrite.
In 1931, Manchuria was occupied by Japanese forces. In 1945 the Soviet armies crushingly defeated the Japanese army, and a communist regime was established in China. For those Russians who were unable to emigrate to the West or to Australia, a period of afflictions and trials began. The Soviet government began to require the Russian emigrants to take Soviet passports, affirming that in the USSR there was no oppression of believers.
The consequent involuntary canonical submission to the Moscow Patriarchate was particularly burdensome for Archimandrite Philaret, so much so that on more than one occasion he was close to laying aside his ministry. It was only his love for his flock that prevented him from taking this course.
At that time the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate” declared that in the Soviet Union there was no persecution of the Church, and that the only conflict was with counter-revolutionaries. Furthermore, Lenin was proclaimed “the greatest genius and the benefactor of mankind.” This deeply disturbed Archimandrite Philaret. From the ambon in church he convicted the Moscow Patriarchate of falsehood, but none of the clergy supported him and he was forbidden to preach.
Having been raised in the tradition of the Holy Fathers, the future hierarch was not afraid to stand alone in the defence of God’s righteousness and Church truth. He instructed his children regarding the true situation of the Church in Soviet lands. Wherever he served, Archimandrite Philaret never once permitted the commemoration of the atheistic and God-fighting powers during the time of the services. Many times he was taken in for interrogation, on one of them they beat him, but this could in no wise change the stance that the future hierarch had taken. Then they set fire to his home, having first sealed up the windows and the door on the ground floor. But the Lord preserved the life of the zealous pastor, and he was able to escape in safety from it all by jumping from the first floor through the flames that were engulfing the house. However, he did suffer severe burns, and the lower part of his face was injured and the vertebrae in his neck.
Vladyka did not abandon his flock until all who had the opportunity to obtain visas had managed to get out of China. Thus it was only in 1962 that he left for Hong Kong. The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad had secured permission for him to leave.
Soon thereafter he re-settled in Australia, in Brisbane. In 1963 he became a Vicar Bishop in Australia. In 1964, Bishop Philaret attended the All-Diaspora Assembly of Hierarchs, which was held in New York. The Metropolitan Anastasy was then in deep old age and was going into retirement, and the Synod had by way of an election to resolve the question of a successor. The outcome of the election was that two candidates for the Metropolitanate were level pegging. So as to maintain peace in the Church, Archbishop (St) John of Shanghai and San Francisco proposed a third candidate - the relatively unknown Bishop Philaret, who was the most junior according to his consecration; and it was entrusted to him. So, in 1964, the Russian Church Abroad received a new, - the third in succession, - First Hierarch, Metropolitan Philaret.
In his activity as head of the Russian Church Abroad, Vladyka Philaret firmly stood for the Church’s non- intervention and non-participation in the political affairs of the State, thereby rejecting Sergianism, which is the principle of permitting the existence of the Church only on certain political conditions. With his flock, Vladyka forbade their engaging in any work in any way connected with governmental politics. He considered that a churchman could not work where his liberty was impinged upon, where he was required to modify his views as a Christian in accordance with any kind of ideological demand.
Vladyka Philaret’s first achievement during his tenure as First Hierarch was bringing peace and quelling discord within the Church Abroad. He devoted all his energies to establishing this, both in the earthly sense and in the highest spiritual sense. Metropolitan Philaret’s time as primate was marked by five Glorifications of Saints by the Russian Church Abroad: the Holy and Righteous John of Cronstadt (1964), the Venerable Herman of Alaska (1970), the Holy and Blessed Xenia of Petersburg (1978), the Assembly of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia (1981), and the Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky (1982).
Vladyka Philaret was a true pillar, guarding the purity of the teachings of the True Church. Refuting the “Branch Theory,” he thereby defended Orthodoxy from the danger of the heresy of Ecumenism. In 1969, 1972 and 1975, Metropolitan Philaret addressed the heads of the Local Churches with “Sorrowful Epistles,” cautioning the Archpastors against the heresy of Ecumenism and religious modernism. With his customary patience and meekness, Vladyka strove to defend church truth, but his voice was not heard. In 1983, the Assembly of Bishop anathematized Ecumenism.
Metropolitan Philaret cultivated the classical teaching concerning the synergy (working together) of the free will of man with the grace of God in the work of salvation. He devoted great attention to this, employing the three powers of the human soul: mind, desire and will.
Being uncompromising in the battle with sinful attachments, Vladyka Philaret was always emphatic with regard to the means to be employed in this warfare. “Take the knife and cut it off” - he would say to his spiritual children, if he saw that anything was hindering their spiritual life.
Vladyka Philaret was a lover of monasticism. In his own words: “According to the explanation of the Holy Fathers, the monastic way is, per se, the straight path to the Heavenly Kingdom, when it is accomplished as it should be.” He explained to his spiritual children that, through its being singled out from life in the world, monasticism gives one the possibility of consecrating oneself wholly to God.
While being a caring and loving pastor, the Holy Hierarch Philaret was extremely strict with himself. He led a truly ascetic life: he slept for two or three hours a day; he ate ordinary food, but in very restricted amounts. Vladyka was very attentive to the sorrows and joys of his flock, and spent the night in prayer for them. His spiritual children were the witnesses of his numerous miracles, which he worked both during his lifetime and after death. Their testimonies speak eloquently of the immense power of the prayers of a Spirit-bearing pastor, who in very truth laid down his life for his friends. Here we will give only two examples.
Elena Pikul: “When we emigrated to Australia, to Croydon, my family experienced difficult circumstances. Unexpectedly my sister fell seriously ill. I took her in. After an operation my son was brought out of hospital. My sister’s daughter was here too, a young girl. I needed to get away from it all. Besides all this, I had to go to work, which was heavy work. My strength had all but dried up. The doctor prescribed some medicine for me, but it only made me even worse. Apparently it acted upon my nervous system in such a way that I became really fearful. I was worried that I would go out of my mind. I went to the Croydon church. Metropolitan Philaret was serving. He was vested and sitting on the cathedra, engrossed in prayer, with his head bowed. A sudden thought came to me: Vladyka is here right now in the place of the Lord Jesus Christ. I shall touch his vestments, just like the woman with the issue of blood touched the Saviour’s and was made healthy, - and I will be well too! I came up from behind; Vladyka’s omophorion was hanging across the stool. So I came up to him and touched. Just then Vladyka suddenly turned round and our eyes met. How could he have felt it? But I was made well, my strength returned. To the very end of my days will not forget this miracle!”
Abbess Alexandra (Chernyavskaya) of the Monastery of Saint John: “In August, 2008, I was about my business in Odessa and was standing by the car which had just been parked; the doors of which were open. All of a sudden, backing in too sharply, a car came into the neighbouring parking space. The blow was so violent that the door swung back and slammed, and caught my right hand and leg. The pain was very sharp. The oncoming car threatened to crush me to death, and in my soul I cried out: “Vladyka Philaret! How can I die without Communion!” At that moment the car reversed. When I was able to extricate myself from the damaged car, my hand and my leg were both unharmed. I cannot say that this was anything other than a miracle. So, through the mediation of Metropolitan Philaret, I remain among the living.”
In his sermons, which were regularly short, Metropolitan Philaret came to the spiritual essence of his subject, setting it forth simply and clearly. According to the witness of many people, his oratory was like that of John Chrysostom. With particular trepidation, the Holy Hierarch Philaret approached the reception of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, reminding his flock that: “Communion - this is a Fire. No one can forbid it, if there are not serious canonical impediments. One must receive Communion as often as possible. It is for this reason that we have to receive Communion in front of the Royal Gates. This symbolizes our closeness to the Kingdom of Heaven, our rising on high, upwards!”
The life of Metropolitan Philaret, which was equal to that of the Angels, was crowned by his blessed falling asleep on 8th / 21st November, 1985, on the day of the Archistrategus [Archangel] Michael and all the Bodiless Powers.
Metropolitan Philaret was buried in the crypt of the cemetery Church of the Dormition in the Holy Trinity Monastery at Jordanville. Thirteen years after his demise, it was decided that the honourable remains of Vladyka Metropolitan should be transferred to a newly prepared resting place in the crypt under the altar of the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Jordanville. The opening of his grave was made on 28th October / 10th November, 1998. Archbishop Lavr of Syracuse and Holy Trinity, Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan, Archimandrite Luke and the brethren were present on this occasion. Then the complete incorruption of the relics was witnessed. The body was white and even soft. The vestments, cross and panagia were still bright.
The faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad accept the opening of the relics of the Holy Hierarch Philaret as a manifest miracle, given them by God for the strengthening of our faith.
Holy Hierarch Philaret, pay unto God for us!

Instructions for an Orthodox Christian
St. Philaret of New York

1.   Remember:  you are a son (daughter) of the Orthodox Church.  These are not empty words. Remember under what obligation this places  you.

2.   Earthly life is fleeting.  You won't notice how it flashes by.  But by this life, the eternal lot of your soul will be determined.  Do not forget this not even for a moment.

3.   Try to live piously.  Pray to God in church; pray to God at home with reverence, with faith, with devotion to the will of the Lord.  Carry out the holy and salvific rules of the Church, her regulations and commandments.  Outside the Church, outside of obedience to her, there is no salvation.

4.   The gift of speech is a great gift of God.  It elevates a person to nobility, it immeasurably lifts him over other earthly creatures.  But how mankind which has become perverse now abuses it.  Protect this gift and know how to use the word in a Christian manner.  Do not judge, do not speak idly.  Fear as fire foulness of speech and seductive speaking.  Do not forget the words of our Lord and Savior:  “by thy words shalt thou be justified and by thy words shalt thou shall be condemned.”  Do not permit lying.  The Holy Scriptures sternly warn:  “The Lord will destroy all those who speak a lie.”

5.   Love your neighbor as yourself according to the Lord's commandment.  Without love there is no Christianity.  Remember:  Christian love is self-sacrificing, and not egotistical.  Do not miss an opportunity to perform a work of love and mercy.

6.   Be modest, pure and chaste in your deeds, words and thoughts.  Do not imitate the perverse.  Do not take their example, and avoid any closeness to them.  Without need, have nothing to do with unbelievers — unbelief is contagious.  Observe modesty and decency always and everywhere; don't become infected with the shameless customs of our days.

7.   Fear and flee from vainglory and pride.  Pride cast down from the heavens the highest and most powerful of angels.  You remember:  thou art earth and unto the earth shalt thou return…. Deeply humble yourself.

8.   The basic objective of life is to save the soul for eternity.  Let this be the main objective and concern of your life.  Woe unto him who destroys his soul through indifference and carelessness.
May the Lord bless you and help you.
Your spiritual father,
+Metropolitan Philaret

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