"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

HOCNA Report on the Finding of St. Philaret's Relics

This report found in The Orthodox Pilgrim, June-July 1999 Vol. 7 No. 4
St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
11009 Old Washington Highway, Glen Allen, Virginia 23060
under HOCNA Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston
Suffragan Bishop: Bishop Moses

comments on this report:

.... It shows the "attitude" of the Panteleimonites we don't appreciate along with new facts/details we do appreciate.


The below account is generally correct as far as factual information goes.   Unfortunately, many of its observations are very speculative and certainly tendentious.  But a valid point is raised in this account as to why Met. Philaret’s relics have been so neglected...

The Finding of the Incorrupt Relics of Metropolitan Philaret

For thirteen years the crypt in the basement of the cemetery Church of the Dormition at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, had been the burial site of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesendky), the third First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad.  The coffin containing his body was immured in the wall of the very damp crypt.  Apparently Metropolitan Philaret had not specified in his will what he wished done with his body, and it was simply put in storage.

According to the testimony of many eye-witnesses who had been there time and again over the years, signs of neglect prevailed in that dark and gloomy place.  It seemed that no one was in charge of the tomb of the reposed Archpastor, for it was untidy and dirty, covered with dust and cobwebs.  Such treatment of the Hierarch’s tomb, though highly regrettable in itself, was not unexpected by Metropolitan Philaret’s spiritual children.  It confirmed once again the negative attitude toward Metropolitan Philaret’s memory on the part of so many in the Russian Synod headed by his successor, Metropolitan Vitaly.

Immediately after Metropolitan Philaret’s repose in 1985, Metropolitan Vitaly moved the Synod in a new direction, or at least he did not interpose himself before others who deflected the Synod from a True-Orthodox course.  Already during the lifetime of Metropolitan Philaret, early latent tendencies toward apostasy were developing in the Church Abroad, tendencies which he resisted and vigorously repulsed.  Now with his repose, these tendencies began to pick up strength.  The Church Abroad. which for many years had exemplified an unshakable True-Orthodox confession of faith, yielded to the universal trend and became infected with the heresy of Ecumenism which had gripped all the mainline Orthodox jurisdictions.  The bishops of the Synod, a majority of whom promoted the implementation of the new direction, endeavored to ignore their former First Hierarch whose strict Orthodox position had stood in the way of their liberal, ecumenistic inclinations. 

Archbishop Laurus dismissed the numerous requests of laymen who were undoubtedly embarrassed by such an unseemly place for the resting place of the former First-Hierarch.  As it happened, last year a burial vault extension was being made to the main cathedral of Holy Trinity Monastery, presumably for the eventual burial oft eh still-living Metropolitan Vitaly.  In the Hierarchial Council of May 1998 it was remembered that after thirteen years His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret still had no permanent tomb, and it was decided to commit his remains to the earth by transferring them to the new burial vault on the anniversary of this repose, November 8/21, 1998.

In order In avoid possible unexpected eventualities and wishing to examine the condition of his remains before their removal to another place, Archbishop Laurus some days before October 28/November 10, in the presence of some clergy, including the deputy of Holy Trinity Monastery, Archimandrite Luke, opened the coffin as soon as it had been taken out of the wall.  Immediately, in the presence of clerical eye-witnesses a series of photographs was taken before and after the Metropolitan’s remains were cleansed of dust and webs.  Afterward Archbishop Laurus sealed the vault.

When the coffin had been opened, it was discovered that the body of Metropolitan Philaret “had dried, but had not corrupted.”  Although his vestments and the aer over his face were covered with dust from dried-up flowers, these items looked as though they had just been put on.  Even the prayer of absolution in his hands and the Gospel book lying on his chest had suffered no change.  The Archbishop’s report says that “the hands were covered with a chalk-like whiteness, the eyes were sunken, and the beard was whole.”  Vladyka’s skin of his face and hands had taken on a bronze coloration, or, as reported elsewhere, had darkened somewhat only after they had been washed with rose water and wine.  Vladyka’s legs, uncovered during the investigation and not wiped with wine, were of a completely natural color.

The news about the incorrupt state of the body of the Archpastor, who had been highly respected and loved in life, spread like wildfire.  Official information from the Chancellery of the Synod was disseminated through the internet.  By prior plan the coffin was supposed to be carried in procession out of the crypt of the cemetery church and into the cathedral on Thursday evening, November 6/ 19, I998, but at the appointed time a heavy warm rain began to fall, forcing its cancellation.  Archbishop Laurus ordered that the coffin be placed in a hearse for removal to the Cathedral the next day.

On Friday at 3:00 p.m. sharp, the great monastery bell began to sound, and in about ten minutes the hearse with the casket of Metropolitan Philaret approached the main temple of the monastery.  Met by the clergy and brethren, the casket was carried intot he church to the chanting of the heirmos, "Helper and Protector."  Immediately the service of the pannykhida began with Archbishop Laurus celebrating, assisted by ten priests and six hierodeacons.  About 200 (other reports say 300) worshippers were in the church.  Following the pannykhida the casket was placed under the temple wall, and the all-nigh vigil to the Holy Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers commenced.

Knowing that the body of Metropolitan Philaret had been found incorrupt, a number of clergymen and lay people continued to request of Archbishop Laurus that he leave the casket open for a twenty-four-hour period, but he categorically refused to do so, alleging that it did not have the blessing of the highest church authority, and that he had already made an official report to Metropolitan Vitaly.  Then it was learned that Archbishop Laurus had strictly forbidden the reproduction of the photographs which had been taken of the incorrupt body and had disallowed even the showing of them.

The next day, Saturday November 8/21, a solemn hierarchical Liturgy was served for the Feast of the Holy Archangel Michael.  Bishop Gabriel, who was supposed to be at this celebration, suddenly became ill with a high fever, and was not able to come for the service.  Eighteen priests and eleven deacons and protodeacons took pan in the Liturgy.  Following the pannykhida the faithful venerated the coffin, and “six clergymen ordained by Metropolitan Philaret, three priests and three deacons, raised the coffin to their shoulders and began a procession of the remains around the church to their resting place in the northeast crypt under the altar.  A litia was served there and the coffin was lowered into the grave.  The grave was not filled.  Instead only a small amount of soil was poured on top of the coffin.” 

Archbishop Laurus spent much time explaining the reason for his refusal to carry out the wish of the clergymen and the lay people that he open Metropolitan Philaret’s coffin, acknowledging that for many his refusal had caused “disappointment and grief."  He repeated again that he had made a report for Metropolitan Vitaly and that it was now necessary to await the decision of the Synod, or rather, the decision of a Council concerning how the incorrupt relics of Metropolitan Philaret should be treated by Church authorities.  At the conclusion of his talk, Archbishop Laurus called upon the faithful to be not so much upset over his refusal, as to pray for the repose of the soul of the reposed First Hierarch, and even to pray to Vladika himself for an indication of the further will of God.

The majority of both clergymen and laymen wondered why Metropolitan Vitaly had been absent from this special celebration.  Later, on November 18/December 1, it was revealed that Metropolitan Vitaly had fallen and broken his shoulder.  He had undergone a successful operation, but was in much pain.  It was not reported when the fall had taken place.  However. the absence of Metropolitan Vitaly and the other bishops from such a festive occasion as the translation of the incorrupt body of the former First-Hierarch did not dampen the joyful mood of all the participants.

An information bulletin, Vertograd-inform, No. 11 (44), published in Russia by members of the Russian Church Abroad, observed that the news “that the relics of Metropolitan Philaret were again lowered into the grave and committed to the earth causes, at least, bewilderment.”  And although Protopriest Constantine Fedorov in answer to a question by Vertograd-inform concerning the attitude in the Russian Church Abroad toward the finding of the relics, said, “Of course, Paschal joy reigns among all whom l know. We all feel joy — priests, bishops, and laymen. And in Russia and abroad joy now reigns.”

But it is difficult to believe that all the bishops of the Synod are entirely joyful, since none of them found time to come to the official burial of the remains of the former First Hierarch, to say nothing of the transference of his incorrupt relics.  Since they were again going to hide incorrupt relics in the earth and not even show them to their people for veneration, it is difficult to believe in their “joy” in this finding.  The explanations for keeping the tomb of Metropolitan Philaret in oblivion for thirteen years are excuses by which former attitudes toward the memory of Metropolitan Philaret are awkwardly concealed.

Questions have been raised: “By committing the incorrupt relics of Metropolitan Philaret to the earth, are Synod hierarchs not trying again, as formerly, to commit to oblivion both the Metropolitan himself and his ordinances?  Is not the present Synod of the Church Abroad continuing to persist in its delusion?  Is it not deliberately ignoring not only the admonitions of many thousands of confessors who have found it necessary to depart from their jurisdiction, and of those few who are still trying to ‘carry on the struggle for the integrity of Orthodoxy from within,’ but even such clear, divine miracles by which testimony has come from above concerning the sanctity of the First Hierarch?  Do not the present hierarchs of the Synod of Metropolitan Vitaly ignore the Metropolitan's ordinances and withdraw farther and farther from them and lead their flock astray?  And does it not appear that the finding of the incorrupt relics of Metropolitan Philaret is convincing proof of the rightness of those who preserve his ordinances and do not have intercourse with hierarch-apostates and those who support them?

The following astonishing candid statement found in the January-February 1999 issue of Orthodox Life is a partial answer to this last question:  "To those who criticized and denounced the firm and strictly ecclesiastical spirit which was connected with the name of our First Hierarch Metropolitan Philaret, to those who called his primacy 'a time of stagnation,' the proof of his undoubted sanctity has now been made manifest.  It was mad apparent at the very same time when, among some of our pastors and members of our flock, there arose doubts as to the rightness of this course, and even the temptation to cast themselves into the deceptively open embrace of the Moscow Patriarchate."

Before the pannikhida on November 7/20, Archbishop Laurus gave a sermon.  He explained that the incorrupt remains of Metropolitan Philaret were one of the testimonies to the fact that Vladyka had been a man of holy life, a faster, and an ascetic.  But something more was needed.  for an ecclesiastical glorification, miracles and conciliar enactment are required.  Archbishop Laurus expressed the hope that the Lord would indicate when and how to glorify Metropolitan Philaret with the saints.

On Novemeber 19/December 2, 1998, the Synod of Bishops resolved to convoke a Hierarchical Council in October 2000 in Cologne, Germany.

Translated and adapted from Obreteniye netlennykh moshcei Motropolita Filateta (Voznesenskogo), Vozdvizheniye No. 16, November-December 1998: reference to the finding of Metropolitan Philaret's incorrupt relics is made in "Miracle in Moscow", Orthodox Life, Vol. 49, No. 1, p. 40, and "Resolutions", Orthodox Life, Vol. 49. No. 2, pp. 44-6