The Sorrowful Epistles of Saint Metropolitan Philaret

Introduction — A Brief Life of Saint Philaret the Confessor of New York

Originally named George, he was born in 1903 in the city of Kursk and later moved with his family to the Far East while still a young child. Fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution, the family fled into Manchuria, settling in Harbin, where George finished his education, training as an electrical engineer and mechanic. The young man’s heart, however, was set on the monastic life, and he took theological courses at the institute in Harbin. In 1931, George was ordained a priest and soon tonsured a monk with the new name of Philaret. Father Philaret became a teacher of the New Testament, pastoral theology, and homiletics and was beloved by his pupils. Thousands of people came to his community church at the House of Mercy to listen to the young archimandrite’s sermons and to share with him their woes. People from all over came and lined up outside his cell in order to have an opportunity to speak with the holy priest. In those days, Father Philaret corresponded with the holy First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Anthony, who taught and advised the young archimandrite. Philaret was generous in almsgiving, lived a strict ascetic life, and was a fearless confessor of the Faith. In 1944, the Japanese who were occupying Manchuria tortured the saint so that he would reverence one of their idols, but St. Philaret would not submit, even as they burned his flesh, and God miraculously delivered him. He always denounced the communists in his sermons and warned everyone against the deception of Stalin’s Soviet Church. The communists retaliated by trying to kill him, and in 1960 they set his house on fire during the night; Philaret survived, although he was burned and suffered a permanent disfigurement. After another assassination attempt, Father Philaret finally succeeded in emigrating to Australia in 1962, where he was reunited with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR) under Metropolitan Anastassy. The following year, the illustrious and renowned archimandrite was consecrated Bishop of Brisbane. Only a year later, in 1964, Philaret was chosen to be the head and First Hierarch of ROCOR and soon faced the greatest heresy to attack the Orthodox Church in our times. On December 7th, 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople “lifted the anathemas” of 1054 and officially ushered in the heresy of Ecumenism and the Great Apostasy. All of the Orthodox patriarchates and autocephalous churches followed on this path of apostasy. Only the Russian Church Abroad under Metropolitan Philaret and the Greek Old Calendarists refused to accept this heresy and broke communion with the World Orthodox. Alone among all Orthodox bishops, the saint wrote a series of “sorrowful epistles,” open letters protesting the action of Athenagoras and calling the World Orthodox to repentance, starting just eight days after the “lifting of anathemas.” St. Philaret said, “You know what Ecumenism is: it is the heresy of heresies. It wants to completely wipe out the concept of the Orthodox Church as the guardian of the truth, and to create some kind of new, strange church.” In his sorrowful epistles, he also said that the Orthodox should not participate in the World Council of Churches, since its declarations were blasphemous and its aims were incompatible with the true Faith. But all of these warnings and exhortations were ignored. Nevertheless, a minority from World Orthodoxy, those laity who were fervent and rejected Ecumenism, joined the ROCOR out of a desire for true Orthodoxy. The synod abroad also stipulated that Roman Catholics and Protestants who join the Church must be baptized with triple immersion, which decision increased the prestige of the ROCOR, and many who were seeking the truth flocked to her for refuge. The Church continued to grow and flourish in many countries around the world under Metropolitan Philaret’s wise leadership, yet within the synod itself, the saint was being undermined by “false brethren,” unworthy bishops who plotted against him. St. Philaret consistently taught that the Moscow Patriarchate was graceless because of its Sergianist heresy. Furthermore, in 1983, he convoked a council that definitively anathematized Ecumenism, also condemning therein those “who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics.” “The distinguishing characteristic of our time,” he used to say, “is that people are now more and more possessed by indifference to the divine truth.... Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Apocalypse clearly indicates to us how terrible indifference to the truth is. There He turns to the angel standing at the head of the Laodicean Church and says: ‘I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. Oh if only thou wast hot or cold! But since thou art neither cold nor hot (but lukewarm—neither the one nor the other, for the truth is not dear to thee), I will spew thee out of My mouth!’ (Rev. 3:15, 16)... Let us remember that this indifference to the truth is one of the main woes of our age of apostasies. Value the truth, O man! Be a fighter for the truth.... Place the truth higher than all else in life, O man, and never allow yourself to decline in any way from the true path!” St. Philaret the Confessor reposed in the Lord in 1985 on the feast of all the bodiless hosts. In 1998, his relics were transferred to a different tomb within Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. When the coffin was opened, the body of Metropolitan Philaret was seen to be completely incorrupt. Then the wicked apostate Archbishop Laurus ordered the coffin to be closed and refused to let the people kiss the relics. He forbade anyone to reproduce the photographs that had already been taken of the incorrupt body of the saint. Laurus later covered the tomb of the saint with concrete so that no one could ever access the relics again. St. Philaret has worked many miracles for those who call upon him in prayer. He was glorified as a saint in 2001.

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
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