The Staff and Vestments of Metropolitan Philaret of Blessed Memory Are Sent to Moscow
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On Sunday, November 12, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in fulfillment of the wishes of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985) of blessed memory, and the will of his cell-attendant, Protodeacon Nikita Chakiroff, Mitred Protopriest Roman Lukianov, Rector of Epiphany Church in Roslindale, MA (near Boston), handed over the staff and vestments of the third First Hierarch of the Church Abroad to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia during a very ceremonious service. Fr Roman would have traveled to Russia himself but could not due to illness. Therefore, praying during Divine Liturgy, which was performed by Priest Victor Boldewskul, Deputy Rector of the parish, along with the other clergymen of the church, was Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), Rector of Sretensky Stavropighial Monastery in Moscow, sent there by the Patriarch. At the end of Liturgy, Fr Victor addressed the multitude of worshipers with the following words of edification:
"In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!
"Often, events occur during our lifetimes the meaning of which we do not fully comprehend. Twenty-five years ago, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed by its First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, glorified the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. The path leading to their canonization was difficult, for there were various opinions on this matter, some people even being against the glorification of the Royal Family. Still, our bishops displayed their spiritual courage. The events that followed proved that this conciliar decision was the expression of Divine Will and a fateful act, which laid the groundwork for the rebirth of the life of the Holy Church in the homeland. The culmination of this expression of the freedom of the Church was the historic Jubilee Council of 2000 and the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia by the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"One of the three surviving members of the Council of Bishops that canonized the New Martyrs in 1981, Archbishop Alypy of Chicago and Detroit, in a recent Epistle to his flock, noted that church prayer has great significance in the life of our flock. Further, Vladyka writes: 'For over 70 years in the churches of the diaspora we have prayed that God would deliver our country from the godless authority and our Orthodox Church from cruel persecution. After the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian land, the Soviet regime finally began to crumble and fell apart several years later. This happened without any bloodshed, and in this we see the hand of God.'
"From a spiritual point of view, one can now say that after the glorification of the New Marytrs, a pre-conciliar period began, which concluded with the decision by the IV All-Diaspora Council held earlier this year on the need for the reunification of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"The courageous act of the glorification of the New Marytrs performed by Vladyka Philaret and his brethren bishops laid the groundwork for our joint prayer to them for the suffering Russian land. Our brethren in the homeland have now joined in this prayer. The end of the grave period of martyric sufferings of the Russian land must be understood as the expression of the great mercy of God, by the prayers of the host of New Martyrs and all the children of the Russian Orthodox Church in the homeland and abroad. The convening and God-pleasing decisions of the IV All-Diaspora Council in turn are the direct result of the act of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy and his fellow bishops who glorified the New Martyrs in 2000. This notion is expressed in the following excerpt from the IV All-Diaspora Council: 'Bowing down before the podvig [spiritual feats] of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, glorified both by the Russian Church Abroad and by the Russian Church in the Fatherland, we see within them the spiritual bridge which rises above the abyss of the lethal division in the Russian Church and makes possible the restoration of that unity which is desired by all.'
"Those of us who remember and who were fortunate enough to see Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret over his 20 years of service as First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad cannot picture him without his devoted assistant and cell- attendant, Father Protopriest Nikita Chakiroff. Fr Nikita spent all his energies, all his strength and his whole life to serving his Abba and spiritual father. Both during life and after the repose of Vladyka Philaret, Fr Nikita continued to fulfill his wishes and preserve his spiritual legacy.
"And what is the spiritual legacy of Vladyka? He can be seen not in the everyday responses to current, temporary church events of his day, but in the main prayer of his life, that is, for the rebirth of the Holy Church in Russia and the return of the Russian people to the ideals of Holy Russia.
"After the repose of Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret, Fr Nikita preserved some of his vestments as relics, since many revered Vladyka for his piety. With regard to his vestments, which Fr Nikita himself acquired for him, Vladyka Philaret, before his death, issued his oral instructions to him. Fr Nikita told of this to his close friend, Fr Roman, after Vladyka's death in 1985. Fr Nikita himself soon fell ill, and sent a letter to Fr Roman, in which he wrote the following:
Dear in the Lord Fr Roman! Bless me!
Soon after Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret's repose, with the knowledge of Vladyka Laurus, I left a second set of episcopal vestments of Vladyka First Hierarch, which I paid for with my own funds, so that it would be packed away and given to you, Fr Roman, for safekeeping.
My health is poor, and the doctors say that I will not live long; that is why I leave them to you to safeguard, and when the time comes, when the Lord frees Russia, our Homeland, when blessed days arrive, foretold by St Seraphim of Sarov the Wonder-worker, then take them to our Homeland. Give them to His Holiness the Patriarch of All Russia, and one set must be given to Diveevo Lavra, and tell them whose they were. Say that we preserved them as a treasure, and say that Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret, as he performed the rite of the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, in his sensitive soul, endured the suffering of every martyr and rejoiced at their staunchness and unwavering strength and devotion to the Truth.
Metropolitan Philaret performed the great deed of glorification in 1981. With conciliarity and with the whole people, in a great church ceremony he glorified the many millions of new Saints of God.
Here I end my letter. I ask you holy prayers and blessing.
With love in the Lord,
Protodeacon Nikita, the sinner.
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, the time has arrived to fulfill the wishes of Metropolitan Philaret and the will of Fr Nikita.
"Today, in our church, Fr Roman will hand over, through Archimandrite Tikhon, Prior of Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, the vestments of that First Hierarch who glorified the New Martyrs abroad to that First Hierarch who glorified them in Russia.
"Brothers and sisters, let us remember the power of prayer and the power of the All-Holy Spirit, Who will overcome our mortal failings and lead us unto Truth.
"The path towards the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs was not easy. The path to the adoption of the 'Act of Canonical Communion,' which combines in the Eucharist both parts of the Russian Church, was also difficult. But these spiritual feats were finalized successfully by conciliar decision of our archpastor after long, prayerful preparation.
"Fr Nikita's letter is remarkable! Who could have foreseen, in 1987, when Diveevo Monastery was still closed, when confessors continued to suffer for Christ under the godless regime, who could have foreseen the coming emancipation and transformation of church life in Russia? Who especially could have thought that this would come to be during the lifetime of Fr Roman? Fr Nikita's letter is nothing less than prophetic. And behind Fr Nikita's words in this letter, one hears the prophetic voice of Vladyka Philaret.
"Now we will serve a pannikhida for the late Metropolitan Philaret of blessed memory, and for Protopriest Nikita. In raising our prayers for their peace, let us thank the Lord that the 'blessed days foretold by St Seraphim of Sarov the Wonder-worker' have arrived, thanks to which we can now fulfill the testament of our spiritual father, Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret. Amen!"
After Divine Liturgy, the vestments intended for the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and for Diveevo Monastery, were taken out of the altar into the middle of the church and laid beside the pannikhida table, where Fr Roman led the commemorative service along with Fr Victor, Protopriest Alexei Mikrikov and the parish clergymen. After the singing of Eternal Memory , the Parish Rector then welcomed Fr Tikhon and spoke about the life of Vladyka Philaret. In a moving response, Archimandrite Tikhon noted the importance of this event for the Russian Orthodox Church and gave Fr Roman a pectoral cross from His Holiness, along with an icon of Holy New Martyr Archbishop Ilarion (Troitsky) of Verey, containing a portion of his relics, for Epiphany Church. The choir, under the direction of Vladimir Pavlovich Roudenko, then sang Bortniansky's Tebe Boga khvalim , and for a long time, the multitude of worshipers approached to venerate the vestments of the third First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.