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!
The Miracles of Our Father Among the Saints
PHILARET the New Confessor
Nikolai Jovanovich (Australia): From my early years I have suffered from sinus troubles and various allergies. On 20th April, 2005, I wrote the following in my diary: “Two weeks ago I had a strong sinus attack, accompanied by the flu, and my nose ran like a tap. The medicines, which I had been taking for three days, did not help. I was desperate, but just at this time Metropolitan Philaret came to mind. In China, Metropolitan Philaret had baptized me. I did not know - was it right or not? - but I asked the Lord to forgive me if I was doing anything wrong. I turned in prayer to Metropolitan Philaret, and asked God’s help from him. My running nose dried up. Within 30 minutes my nose was completely dry. Yesterday (19th April) again, while I was praying, my nose began to run. I prayed to Metropolitan Philaret, asking him to help me, and immediately it all passed.” From that time I have never taken any medication for my nose troubles.
Elena Pikul (Australia): From 1946, our family lived in Harbin. We attended the church attached to the House of Kindheartedness, where Father Philaret served. Once during the Winter of 1960, my elder son, Galik, fell ill. His temperature rose to over 40o. He was suffering greatly. We called a Chinese doctor, and he found that pneumonia was setting in. Before the doctor came, our daughter, Zina, ran to Fr Philaret, but he was not at home. She asked the neighbours to tell Batiushka that her brother had fallen ill. I sat by Galik’s bed; his temperature was 40 and higher; his heart was pounding. He was delirious… and then what? His temperature began to fall, it went down to 37o. Galik started breathing regularly, his pulse was normal; the patient peacefully fell asleep. When he woke up, he felt very much better. My daughter returned, we were both bewildered. What had happened? What had happened was this: soon after Zina had left [his place], Fr Philaret returned and went to the neighbours for a cup of tea. They told him about Zina’s visit. Immediately Batiushka jumped up from his place without finishing his tea, he quickly ran up the stairs to his apartment and began to pray. From what the neighbours reported it is evident that my son began to recover at the very same moment that Father Philaret prayed for him. His prayer is powerful!
O. Chistyakova (Australia): When I was in Harbin in 1955, in hospital I happened to be the witness of the healing from a nervous disorder of the sick T.M. The patient, a young woman, came down with a nervous disorder, and not only did she refuse to drink, but she even put the baby at her breast in the wardrobe! They committed her to hospital, and Father Philaret prayed for her. She improved gradually so that, meeting her some years later, one could only say that she was a normal young woman. Whether Archimandrite Philaret prayed for her in the hospital or at his place in the House of Kindheartedness, I cannot say. Members of her family are still alive, although she herself has died of a completely different illness.
Abbess Alexandra (Chernyavskaya), Monastery of St John: I became acquainted with Vladyka Philaret in my student days, and he became my spiritual father. The first miracle of Metropolitan Philaret is bound up with my family life. In 1967, I was expecting a second child and the doctor said that it was highly probable that the baby would be stillborn. I was totally desperate, and in my grief I went to Vladyka Philaret. Vladyka calmed me down, saying that everything was in God’s hands. After this, he anointed me with holy oil and blessed me. By turning to prayer, Vladyka saved my baby. The power of his prayer was such that shortly thereafter I safely gave birth to a healthy child. Just as the doctor on duty said, this was a manifest miracle.
The Nun Ioanna (Karlova), Monastery of St John: I was not well acquainted with Metropolitan Philaret’s legacy, but nonetheless, I was in two minds about whether he was a holy man. Then the thought would come to me that one could place him in the same rank as such a luminary as Vladyka John of Shanghai and San Francisco, in whose honour I was tonsured. On 14th December [n.s.], 2007, on the nameday of Vladyka Philaret, I was standing by the table in my cell and looking at the church calendar, and doubtful thoughts about the sanctity of Metropolitan Philaret again came into my head. Suddenly for no apparent reason I started to fall backwards. Behind my back there was a chair, which was then pushed over and turned on its side. Nothing was hurt, I fell onto the rug, lying alongside the bed. This was a very felicitous fall: physically I suffered nothing, but somehow at that very time the Lord showed me that Vladyka Philaret was indeed a saint. After this with reverence and with greater interest I read through his sermons.
Below we are appending some reports of miracles which are found in the book, “The Fiery Pillar,” which has been compiled by the Nun Cassia (Seninoy), published in Saint Petersburg, 2007.
Protodeacon Christopher Birchall (Canada): This story was told to me by Lydia Mikhailovna Klar, the wife of Evgenii Iosifovich Klar, the dean of the Seminary at Jordanville. In 1994, it became known that their daughter-in-law, Irina Klar, had contracted cancer. Her husband, Michael, a doctor by profession, was desperate. He prayed fervently for her recovery, and in time it appeared that the disease had departed. However, in 1997, there was a severe deterioration. Lydia Mikhailovna gave the pious wife a undershirt, which had belonged to Metropolitan Philaret and which she had been given by the holy hierarch’s cell attendant, Protodeacon Nikita Charikov. Irina put it on, and immediately she smelled a strong fragrance; she thought that someone in the premises had given up their soul. Irina and Michael prayed fervently all the evening, and at last Irina fell asleep still wearing this undershirt. Next morning she felt significantly better, and went to the hospital for a check-up. The result of the examination showed that the size of the cancerous tumour had diminished by 70 (!) times. There was no rational explanation for this, and the hospital staff were at a loss. At the end of 1998, Irina’s cancerous tumour began to grow again. After this, when the remains of Metropolitan Philaret had been uncovered and found to be incorrupt, Archimandrite Luke from Jordanville started to gather information about the miracles. Irina decided that she ought to tell of her healing, and she felt that she had been wrong when, earlier, she had been silent about this. After she had told father Luke about what had happened, she began to feel better again. Until now (a year has passed) she continues in good health. The cancerous tumour has not disappeared completely, but it has diminished to such an extent that Irina is able to carry on a normal life and dedicate herself to the upbringing of her children.
Elena Kudryabtseva (Moscow): In our little boy signs of an allergy appeared, which grew stronger and stronger day by day. The doctors could not give a clear reason for the rashes which broke out all over his body and, in places, developed into hard scabs. The medicine they prescribed gave hardly any alleviation, and taking these tablets was often noxious for the child. We did not know what was to be done, or what to do. An acquaintance of ours, a pious and sincere man, who revered Vladyka Philaret (Voznesensky), told the story of what had befallen a seriously ill patient in the clinic, whom the doctors already had no hope of curing. The sick man took a photo of the hierarch, and with faith placed it on the bad place. In a short time he came to recovery, an operation was not necessary, and he was healed of his severe infirmity. Remembering this story, we took a photograph of the hierarch Philaret, taken not long before his demise by Archpriest Constantine Fedorov, and placed it over the infant’s cot. On the next day, the scabs on the child’s legs began to come off, the rash diminished, and within a short time all signs of the allergy completely disappeared.
Milovoje Miliikovic (Belgrade): My 80 year-old Mama’s right hand was hurt. At first a smallish lump appeared on her hand, and then it began to hurt a lot. No medications were of any use, and the doctors did not know what it was. She took antibiotics and anaesthetics; they gave her fifteen injections of penicillin. Nothing helped and the afflicted area just got bigger. The day of the Holy Hierarch Philaret came, when our Fr Acacius always serves a particularly festive service. On this day from the Monastery of New Stenik on Mount Mikylii the nuns came with Abbess Evphrosyne, which was a big support for us all. After a remarkable service, we had a meal during which a life of the Holy Hierarch Philaret was read and a record of the miracles worked through his prayers. Through the endeavours of the nuns, everyone was given an akathist to the saint. Furthermore, with Fr Acacius’ blessing, the monk Joseph poured out some oil for me from the lamp before the icon of Saint Philaret. When I arrived home, I read the akathist to Saint Philaret and anointed the painful area on Mama’s hand with the oil - first with the sign of the Cross, and then completely over the whole area. Instantaneously the pain lessened. In the morning the wound had diminished to half the size, and it began to secrete pus. Furthermore, before the reading of the akathist, Mama felt so bad that she could not stand up and had to sit down....
Through the prayers of the Holy Hierarch Philaret, may the Lord have mercy on us all. Amen.
The Russian language text of the above was supplied by Abbess Alexandra of the Convent of St John (Maximovich) in Odessa, Ukraine. It included two additional miracles which were recorded within the Life that we published last month and which we have therefore not included here. The present compiler of “The Shepherd” can also recall the report of a miracle of the Saint, while the latter was still alive:-
IN 1970, a small group of seminarians from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, myself included, went to the Kursk Root Icon Hermitage at Mahopac, N.Y., over the Thanksgiving weekend, to help despatch some books on the Coronations of the Russian Tsars, which had been published by the Russian Youth Committee. At that time a nun was staying at the Hermitage, and she greatly revered Metropolitan Philaret and told us that he knew the Four Gospels off by heart. She also told us that for many years she had suffered from very severe headaches, which at that time I did as well, which made me pay attention to what she had to say. She reported that on one occasion, she had a particularly bad headache and asked the Metropolitan to pray for her that she might be delivered from it. Out of humility, he said that he could not do such a thing, and so in desperation she fell at his feet and said she would not let him go until he did. He prayed, and not only did her headache leave her immediately, but from that day until the time she told us her tale she had not suffered another one.
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