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Metropolitan Philaret (ROCOR) and the Church


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#1 Kosta

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 10:58 PM

I'm trying to understand Met Philaret's ecclesiology on ecumenism, the soviet church and "world Orthodoxy". Reading some of his writings it makes clear that he viewed the MP without grace and not Orthodox. But was in communion with all the churches that were in communion with the MP, in fact ROCOR itself was one of these churches! What was his understanding? After the sorrowful epistles and the recognition by the MP and the rest of Orthodoxy of the canonicity of the OCA, did Metropolitan Philaret officially sever ties with world orthodoxy and conder them graceless?
If not, why do old calendarist churches view him as a saint many of them going ahead and glorifying him?

#2 Edward Henderson

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 04:57 AM

Metropolitan Philaret never called the MP graceless nor did he so call any local Orthodox Church involved in the Ecumenical Movement. If you read the Sorrowful Epistles, he addresses respective bishops (whether it be the Ecumenical Patriarch or the Greek Archbishop of America) by their respective titles. He certainly writes to them as being Orthodox Christian archpastors who have violated Orthodox principles of ecclesiology. He calls them back to Holy Tradition. However, he never calls them heretics or schismatics. I think we have to understand the times that Metropolitan Philaret lived in. The late 1960s and 1970s, we saw many local Orthodox Churches become heavily involved in the Ecumenical Movement. From reading several statements by then Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, it was clear that his agenda was to bring the Orthodox and Latin Churches into full eucharistic and sacramental communion. At the same time, the Moscow Patriarchate had adopted a policy to commune Roman Catholics without any form of reception into the Orthodox Church. So, there was genuine concerns that these local churches were on the brink of complete apostasy from Holy Orthodoxy. Of course, many of the Old Calendarist groups hold that the local churches had indeed apostasized from Orthodoxy. And really, I believe, it was the witness of the Russian Church Abroad and the Fathers on Mount Athos that really kept a false union between the Orthodox and the Latins from happening. Nowadays, the MP has really re-embraced traditional Orthodoxy as it had never fully died out among her faithful even in the darkest days of the Soviet regime. The EP still talks of "reunion" but I don't think the impulse for it is as strong as it was during the tenure of Patriarch Athenagoras. So, try to understand Metropolitan Philaret's ecclesiology in that light. I think also that the 1983 anathemas against ecumenism are not fully his work and if they are, they really overstep ecclesiological boundaries of a local primate as such an anathema could really only be adopted by a Pan-Orthodox or Ecumenical Synod.

#3 Christophoros

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 05:33 AM

Metropolitan Philaret, in his posthumously published private letters, does indeed state his opinion that the Moscow Patriarchate is graceless, as well as the North American Metropolia and the European "Evlogian" archdiocese. In regards to the latter jurisidictions, Met. Philaret wrote in 1979: "I consider (I speak, of course, only for myself) that the schismatics - American and Parisian - do not have grace... To such a degree do I not believe in the grace of the schismatics’ 'manipulations', that in the event that I were dying and it was necessary to give me Communion, I would receive it neither from the 'Parisians' nor from the American False-Autocephalites, lest in place of the Holy Mysteries I should swallow a piece of bread and some wine." In 1980, he wrote a letter in which he stated, in regards to the Moscow Patriarchate: "But to recognize the church of the evil-doers as the bearer and repository of grace, that we, of course, cannot do. For outside of Orthodoxy there is no grace; and the Soviet church has deprived itself of grace." To my knowledge, these views were never explicitly stated or shared by the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. In regards to "new calendar ecumenists," the Synod of Bishops publicly acknowledged in 1974 that "Concerning the question of the presence or absence of grace among the new calendarists the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad does not consider herself or any other Local Church to have the right to make a conclusive decision, since a categorical evaluation in this question can be undertaken only by a properly convened, competent Ecumenical Council, with the obligatory participation of the free Church of Russia."

Edited by Christophoros, 19 June 2009 - 05:40 AM.
added quote on MP


#4 Kosta

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 05:37 AM

I agree he never refered to any local Orthodox church graceless but he did of the MP. The MP was the exception, i can gives links to some of his epistle dating from the early 1960's, where he clearly uses the term and even explains as to why he recieved MP priests and laity without chrismation on basis of ekonomia even though they are a graceless non-church.

To be honest I cant figure out whether he was a holy pious person or a complete whack job.

#5 Kusanagi

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 07:57 AM

But his relics are incorrupt when they had to be moved into a new coffin where they now lie in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordansville in NY. I have read many of his works to know he is a saint. My spiritual father who is based at an MP church thinks he is a saint as well.

I may be wrong but didnt other saints think the MP is graceless because of their involvement with the Soviets?

#6 Christophoros

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 01:44 PM

Metropolitan Philaret's views on the Soviet-controlled MP are understandable, and were shared by others, and were obviously shaped by the time and circumstances in which he lived. His views on the OCA and "Parisians" are shaped by his strict adherence to a genuine ecclesiological concept:

I consider (I speak, of course, only for myself) that the schismatics — American and Parisian — do not have grace, for otherwise one would have to admit the absurd: the existence of several true Churches, which do not recognize each other, nor have any spiritual communion among themselves. This is already manifestly absurd because the Divine Founder of the Church said: “I will build My Church”, and not “My Churches”. I was led to this conviction both by the words of the ancient Holy Fathers (cited by me above) and by the words of Abba Anthony [Khrapovitsky] concerning the apparent performance of the Mysteries among those who have broken away from the true Church.

He fails to acknowledge that in times of lawlessness, "owing to pressing needs, things do not always proceed flawlessly, in accordance with what has been prescribed in times of peace," in the words of St. Theodore the Studite. Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky also recognized this, when he wrote in his textbook on dogmatic theology:

Also, sometimes a temporary breaking of communion is caused by the personal errors of individual hierarchs who stand at the head of one or another local Church; or it is caused by their violation of the canons of the Church, or by the violation of the submission of one territorial ecclesiastical group to another in accordance with anciently established tradition. Moreover, life shows us the possibility of disturbances within a local Church which hinder the normal communion of other Churches with the given local Church until the outward manifestation and triumph of the defenders of authentic Orthodox truth. Finally, the bond between Churches can sometimes be violated for a long time by political conditions, as has often happened in history.

But after all is said, he never forced his personal views on the Synod. A variety of opinions existed on these matters during his tenure as first hierarch. I know members of the ROCOR who continue venerate his memory, even though they did not agree with all his theologumenon, and do not consider him formally glorified by the Church. I personally have an icon of him - without a halo - in my icon corner. He was the first bishop to publicly rebuke Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos (along with the entirety of Mount Athos) for the unprecedented ecumenical nonsense that was being taught and practiced in the 1960's, and continued to do so throughout his whole life. From all accounts of those who personally knew him, he was a very pious shepherd whose life was a shining example of Orthodoxy.

As regards his rather rigid personal opinions (which I disagree with), many would be suprised with the personal opinions of some prominent Fathers of the Church; many could rightly be called heresy if they were taught publicly and adhered to in the face of various rebukes. Because they weren't, they are simply considered personal errors. There are many examples of this beyond Blessed Augustine of Hippo.

#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 02:11 PM

As others have rightly commented the epistles and commentary of Metropolitan Philaret come from a particular context. This was a time of tremendous acrimony among the various Orthodox churches. If we placed everyone on a spectrum we would have seen that most were at opposite and opposed ends of this with few in the middle. The difference nowadays is that far more of the faithful are able to stand in the middle of this spectrum.

The question of grace however can be very difficult to determine. During the period we are talking about the division was not over doctrine but rather over practice.

We know that any sinful action deprives us of grace to some extent. However at what point does this cast us right out of the Church? Or at what point can a sinful action debilitate grace to such an extent that we are part of some sort of 'phantom church'? In other words the church we are part of is formally part of the fullness of the Church but yet the concerted actions of its hierarchs, clergy and people deprive it of effective grace. This is like a man with only a partial blood flow. He is alive but not quite.

These questions were the ones most commonly posed during this time. They are difficult to answer but continually arise during certain times.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#8 Edward Henderson

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 11:22 PM

Again, I think we have to look at the times Metropolitan Philaret lived in. He was indeed a holy man and is venerated as a saint (including myself) by many. We no longer have a Soviet Union. The OCA, ROCOR and the MP are in full communion with each other. When the MP glorified the New Martyrs and Confessors in 2000, they included many who condemned the infamous epistle of Metropolitan Sergius and joined the Catacomb Church. Being that Metropolitan Philaret reposed in 1985, we do not know how his attitude would be towards the present-day MP and OCA. The current ROCOR Synod of Bishops were certainly formed by previous ROCOR hierarchs but saw fit to engage in dialogue and enter into communion with the MP, thus being in full communion with "World" Orthodoxy. What changed the attitudes of these hierarchs was their contacts with the MP and unofficial visits to Russia where they saw Holy Russia being reborn. So, Metropolitan Philaret's personal opinions are certainly understandable given the times he lived in. Likewise, it is acceptable to recognize his personal sanctity and put aside certain views of his that were mistaken and certainly do not reflect the present reality of these churches. No saint in the Orthodox Church is infallible and we can find mistakes in any saint's personal opinions or even theological writings.

#9 Kosta

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 12:05 AM

Again, I think we have to look at the times Metropolitan Philaret lived in. He was indeed a holy man and is venerated as a saint (including myself) by many. We no longer have a Soviet Union. The OCA, ROCOR and the MP are in full communion with each other. When the MP glorified the New Martyrs and Confessors in 2000, they included many who condemned the infamous epistle of Metropolitan Sergius and joined the Catacomb Church. Being that Metropolitan Philaret reposed in 1985, we do not know how his attitude would be towards the present-day MP and OCA. The current ROCOR Synod of Bishops were certainly formed by previous ROCOR hierarchs but saw fit to engage in dialogue and enter into communion with the MP, thus being in full communion with "World" Orthodoxy. What changed the attitudes of these hierarchs was their contacts with the MP and unofficial visits to Russia where they saw Holy Russia being reborn. So, Metropolitan Philaret's personal opinions are certainly understandable given the times he lived in. Likewise, it is acceptable to recognize his personal sanctity and put aside certain views of his that were mistaken and certainly do not reflect the present reality of these churches. No saint in the Orthodox Church is infallible and we can find mistakes in any saint's personal opinions or even theological writings.


This post along with the others make very good points. I definately recognize his personal sanctity, my reservations were some of his epistles i read, Being that he recognized only the catacomb church as the true Orthodox church in Russia, and to my knowledge (i maybe wrong, if so please correct me) under Met Philaret, ROCOR glorified many martyrs and saints but none who were known to attend the MP church. This is a troubling aspect.
Circulating (to discredit the ROCOR union with the MP ofcourse) is a prophecy attributed to Met Philaret, how ROCOR will split 3 ways ater his death, the false orthodox going with the MP, the greeks abandoning them, etc. Its because of these aspects of his writings and sayings which i posed the question in post 4.

#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 06:53 AM

Holy Russia being reborn


Perhaps 'reborn' is not the right word since Holy Russia never died.

that he recognized only the catacomb church as the true Orthodox church in Russia


As is now known (see thread, 'Patriarch Sergius and the New Martyrs of Russia'), it is incorrect to separate out the so-called Catacomb church and the Russian Orthodox Church. I have read that Metropolitan Philaret allowed himself to be influenced by his secretary who held intemperate views. Much is now known that wasn't before about the ROC under Stalin and Khrushchev. The views of St Afanasiy (Sakharov) (+1962) are important in these matters. MP must be taken to recognise Metropolitan Philaret's personal sanctity since the late Patriarch Alexey accepted a set of Metropolitan Philaret's vestments as secondary relics.

#11 Kusanagi

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 08:53 AM

Interesting also to add is his sermons on youtube about the St Tikhon

Not all videos are of his sermon on St Tikhon.

YouTube - Sermon of Saint Metropolitan Philaret of ROCOR 1981

YouTube - Saint Metropolitan Philaret about anathema of Saint Tikhon

YouTube - The Glorification of St Xenia, 1978

I love how he preaches, very powerful and commanding much like how i expect some of the apostles would have done.




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