of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)
Philaret, was born George Nikolaevich Voznesensky in Kursk on March
22, 1903. His mother, Lidia Vasilievna, died when George was only 18
years old, while his father, soon thereafter accepting monastic
tonsure under the name Dimitry, became an archbishop. In 1947, his
father was repatriated to the USSR, where he died shortly thereafter.
Philaret’s family moved to Blagoveschensk, on the Amur River, in
1909. In 1920, he completed the eight-grade gymnasia. Moving with his
family to Harbin, he entered the Russo-Chinese Polytechnic Institute
and graduated it an electromechanical engineer in 1927. In 1931, he
completed the pastoral theology courses, soon thereafter renamed the
Theology Department, at the University of St. Vladimir. He would later
become a professor of New Testament, Pastoral Theology, and Homiletic
studies at the same. In 1930, he was ordained to the diaconate, and in
1931 was tonsured a monk under the name Philaret. A year later, he was
ordained a Hieromonk, in 1933 – elevated to the rank of hegumen, and
in 1937 – to the rank of archimandrite.
of Vladyka’s university colleagues recalled: "Archimandrite
Philaret did great work advancing Church activities and pastoral
homiletics. Worshippers would
in. He was
beloved by every class of Harbin’s Orthodox population. The name of
Archimandrite Philaret was renowned even beyond the confines of the
Harbin Diocese. He was kind, and accessible to all who approached him.
And that was a great many people. People who went to him knew that
they would receive proper advice, as well as comfort and help.
Archimandrite Philaret was very strict with himself; he was known as a
true ascetic. Our kindhearted Vladyka also had a very rare kind of
memory. When one would meet him, he would express great interest in
every facet of one’s life; he felt no need to remind anyone of his
own needs or difficulties, but would develop any topic of
conversation, and was ready to answer any question."
Soviet forces occupied Manchuria, Archimandrite Philaret decisively
refused to accept a Soviet passport. When a newspaper reporter came to
interview him, asking what he thought of "the wise decision on
the part of the Soviet government to offer the Russian population of
Harbin the chance to reestablish the citizenship of their
homeland," he heard the following courageous response: "I do
not consider accepting Soviet citizenship possible, and will not do
so, until such time as I will not have confirmed by the facts, and
100% without a doubt, that the persecution of religion, antireligious
propaganda, and attacks on servants of the Church have ceased
entirely, and that the Church, which did not 'secede,' but was
banished by the government, has once more taken its rightful
place." Until the end of his days in China, Archimandrite
Philaret never accepted Soviet citizenship, despite the danger
inherent in taking such a position. Another time, Archimandrite
Philaret was disciplined for his boldness. Once, having discovered a
church newsletter in which Lenin was counted among the geniuses and
benefactors of mankind, Archimandrite Philaret expressed his
indignation in a sermon, which received widespread notoriety.
fearless denunciations of the theomachist Communists inspired a
particular hatred within them, and they decided to burn Archimandrite
Philaret alive, lighting his monastic cell on fire. But the Lord
preserved His chosen one: although with severe burns, Vladyka escaped
the fiery trap alive.
all times working to defend his flock, he, in his own words, “never
sullied my lips and my prayer with prayers for the servants of
Antichrist,” despite multiple threats. Additionally, Archimandrite
Philaret also exchanged correspondence with the head of the Russian
Church Abroad, Metropolitan Anastassy, ignoring the dangers implicit
in doing so.
Synod of Bishops tried long and hard to receive a visa for him to exit
China, and, judging by available archived correspondence, almost every
diocese of the Church Abroad hoped to get him for itself. Only in 1962
was the Synod of Bishops able to get Archimandrite Philaret to Hong
Kong, from whence he was able to quickly get to Brisbane. A large
portion of his former parishioners had gathered in Australia, and upon
his arrival there, with a great many signatures, they petitioned the
Synod to appoint him bishop of that city. The petition was
enthusiastically supported by the already ailing Archbishop Savva, and
in 1963 Archimandrite Philaret, to the joy of his former flock, became
Bishop of Brisbane.
the Council of Bishops in 1964, at which Metropolitan Anastassy
announced his retirement, Bishop Philaret, having arrived in place of
his ruling bishop, Archbishop Savva, was elected First Hierarch. The
Council determined him to be the new Hierarch of the Russian Church
Abroad, a burden he carried for 21 years.
it happened, almost in the middle of the period of his rule, the Third
All-Diasporan Council was summoned. Our faithful immediately recall
the four great glorifications of God-pleasers: Righteous St. John of
Kronstadt, Venerable St. Herman of Alaska, Blessed St. Xenia of St.
Petersburg, and the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
First Hierarch appealed more than once with enlightening letters to
the heads of other Churches, many of whom heeded his call. Vladyka was
a remarkable preacher. Deep faith, fiery prayer, kindness and
benevolence, concern for the continued, undisturbed spiritual peace
and steadfast defense and confession of Truth – these were the
primary characteristics of our First Hiearch, Metropolitan Philaret.
reposed in the Lord on November 21, 1985, on the day of the Archangel
Michael. His convictions were clearly expressed in his will. In the
published Spiritual Testament,
the Metropolitan said the following:
that fast which thou hast! (Rev. 3:11).
words, taken from the sacred Book of the Apocalypse, have a
particular significance in our time, in our greatly sorrowful, evil,
temptation-filled days. They remind us of that priceless spiritual
wealth that we possess, as children of the Orthodox Church.
we are rich. This spiritual wealth is that which the Holy Church
possesses, and it is offered to all her faithful children. The
teaching of the Faith, of our marvelous, salvific Orthodox Faith;
the countless living examples of the lives of people who have lived
according to the Faith, according to those lofty principles and
rules that the Church offers us. Those
who have attained that spiritual purity and exaltedness that is
called holiness; the beauty and majesty of our Orthodox Divine
services and a living participation in them through faith and
prayer; the plenitude of the grace-filled spiritual life that is
open to each and every one, and, crowning it all, the unity of the
children of the Church in that love of which the Savior said: By
this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love
one to another (John 13:35).
1998, it was decided to transfer the remains of the reposed First
Hierarch from the crypt of the cemetery Church of Dormition to the new
vault under the altar of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Jordanville.
When his tomb was opened on November 10, his relics were found to be
incorrupt; he was a light color, and his skin, beard, and hair were
completely preserved. Vladyka’s vestments, Gospel, gramota with the
prayer for the departed, cross, and the shroud covering the
departed’s face were all totally preserved. Even the white cloth
used to cover the top of body had kept its radiant whiteness.
Meanwhile, the metal clasps of the Gospel fell apart at a touch.
the Divine Liturgy on November 21, then-Archbishop Laurus called upon
all those gathered there to pray for the repose of the First
Hierarch’s soul, until such time as God’s will should indicate he
be added to the body of saints. A panihida was then served, after
which a crucession with Metropolitan Philaret’s coffin took place
around the cathedral to the tomb, where it was laid in its prepared