"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985
Uncovering Relics - Informal Account
translation of the remains of Metropolitan Philaret:
"On the third of November, 1998 (O.S.), the coffin of Vladika Metropolitan Philaret was opened in the presence of some priests. I spoke with two of these priests.
They found Vladika's body all covered with a white substance. There was some white mold on the clothes. When they cleaned off this white mold they found the face and hands of Vladika to be completely intact. It was even noted that the body and the skin were in better shape and lighter in color than Vladika John's of Shanghai. The priest washed his hands and face with water and wine. He said that you could see the veins under the skin; and his beard was completely soft. His face was recognizable; even his mouth, which had a little paralysis on the left could be seen. They saw a part of the leg which was also completely intact and soft. They didn't look through the whole body because this is needed to be done by a commission appointed by a decision of the Synod.
What really surprised them was that the material in the coffin surrounding the body was still shining white. A funeral director remarked about this that usually after the third year this material turns black. The vestments of Vladika were shining and bright. The prayer rope in his hand, a green chotki, was like brand new. The piece of paper in the hand (Prayer of Absolution), had no mold and was very clean like fresh paper. On his mitre were paper icons that were bright and had no signs of fading or disintegration. The cloth that covered his face (which is put over the Holy Gifts on the Altar table), was also bright, like brand new.
One thing was affected by decay. The metal clasps on the Gospel were corroded and went to pieces when touched. This is important to note. It was being said by some that the reason for the incorruption of Vladika's body was due to the cold place, "like a refrigerator", in which his coffin had been laid . But the funeral director said that this is not the case at all. The metal parts which were corroded show the condition of the moisture in the coffin. The paper, the fabrics inside the coffin, and the body of Vladika were not affected.
Another point of note was the coffin of Vladika. It was painted black with a white cross. It was like brand new, as if it had been painted yesterday. There were no signs of rotting. The same was true of the mantia covering Vladika's body. It was clean and shining. One person who was there noted that a button on the mantia was corroded by the moisture.
I asked one of the priests what was the feeling when the coffin was opened. He said it was very peaceful, very calm, very solemn.
Then Vladika Laurus came and put a seal on the coffin. After that pannikhidas were served each day during that week, from Monday to Friday. I was there a couple of times. When people venerated his coffin they said they felt it was not an ordinary coffin; they felt some special grace there.
On Friday, the 8th of November (O.S.), the coffin was taken to the main church. It was a rainy day. There were lots of people in the church. A pannikhida was served. The coffin was put in the middle of the church at the beginning of the service, then it was put to the side, on the right, near where the confessions are usually heard. I noticed many people were coming with candles to the coffin and venerating it all during the service.
The next morning, Saturday, the Feast of the Archangel Michael and All Angels, there were about 300 people in church. There were about 30 clergy serving; there was Vladika Laurus, about eleven deacons, and the rest were priests.
At the Liturgy, Fr. Valery Lukianov gave the homily. He remarked on the last words found in Metropolitan Philaret's typewriter: "...hold that fast which thou hast...", (Rev. 3:11). Father Valery said that this is what we must do; to obey and be truthful to the Faith of the Church. He said that maybe Vladika wasn't so good an administrator, but he was a great man of prayer and a true faster. After Liturgies, they would gather to eat and Vladika wouldn't eat after all these services, just have some tea. A few times he would have a little something, but he would eat like a bird. This would surprise everybody because of all his praying and serving. Where did he get such strength?
He told how Vladika was a very merciful man. He helped many people. He helped many people with money and nobody knew about it; he did it in secret. Fr. Valery knew of one woman who came to Vladika; she was broke, with two children, whose husband had abandoned them. Vladika helped her. When Vladika was in his coffin, this same woman was there standing by his coffin, weeping with tears of gratitude for what he had done for her and her children.
Vladika was a very educated man, theologically, and knew the Fathers of the Church very well. Vladika's teaching against ecumenism was rooted in his knowledge of the teachings of the Fathers; it wasn't made up on his own. The greatest events took place while he was Metropolitan. He oversaw the glorification of many Saints: in 1981, the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, including the Royal Martyrs, also St. Herman of Alaska, Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, and St. John of Kronstadt. These are truly significant events.
Vladika loved children and young people. At Synod he would have tea parties for boys and girls. He would invite them to talk and discuss things about Church life and the Bible. He truly loved the young generation and cared for their souls. There are many now (no longer young), who can remember how Vladika paid attention to them. He was very calm and very prayerful. He really was a great man of prayer. This and many more things did Father Valery say in his sermon.
After the Divine Liturgy, there was a Pannihkida. Vladika Laurus came out and spoke a few words then. What he said really surprised everybody. Many people who came were disappointed that the coffin was not opened. Some people came to Vladika Laurus to ask him about this. Vladika said that today, once more, we are saying "good-bye" to Vladika Philaret. He was a great man and he was sure that he will be glorified. He explained to the people, who were sorrowful that the coffin was not opened the reasons for this. There are some who felt that the coffin should be buried; let soil go back to soil. If he would open the coffin now it would already be like a veneration of relics and this shouldn't be done yet, as it is against canons. Some are ready to see his body as relics, but some are not ready to see his body as relics; so to prevent some wrong thoughts or feelings, the coffin wouldn't be opened. Vladika Philaret loved the canons, he obeyed them, so now we have to do everything according to the canons. Now a presentation will be made at the meeting of the Synod and we will wait for whatever the Synod will decide. We will just put the coffin in the hole, but not put soil over it. He repeated that people should not be sorrowful that the coffin was closed; Vladika is still with us. He was a holy man and he is with God, and now after seeing that his body was intact, it is an invitation for us to pray to Vladika. And if miracles occur, then it will be a sign, a confirmation to us for the glorification of Vladika Philaret, which he believes will soon take place. It will take place soon. Thirteen years Vladika has lain there and many times he received a request to move his coffin to a different place. Providentially, it did not happen. Now that we have opened the coffin and knowing the conditions where the coffin was, we can see how God showed glory in this man.
Some people said that they were not surprised that Vladika's remains were found incorrupt, because he was a holy man. The people who knew him well and were close to him knew him as a man of deep prayer, a wise spiritual struggler , a faster, and an immovable rock in upholding the integrity of the Faith."