Metropolitan Philaret, born March 22, 1903 in Kursk, Russia was the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia from 1964 until his death in New York City on November 21, 1985. Having fled communist Russia with his family through Manchuria in 1920, he was appointed primate in the same year that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad canonized St. John of Kronstadt. St. John was later canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate in June, 1990. We commemorate the Moscow Patriarchate’s glorification of St. John of Kronstadt today.
We must remember how difficult his podvig was! Our great righteous ones, such as St. Sergius, St. Seraphim, and others departed from worldly noise and commotion, but Fr. John’s entire life, entire pastorship passed among the masses of the people.
But he himself indicated what was the key, what his path was. Having begun his modest service as an ordinary priest in the Kronstadt Cathedral, he directed all his attention and strength towards what we call the “inner man.” He himself later said that he had firmly decided from the first day of his ministry to always observe himself, to always delve deeper into himself, and to always control himself. Examining himself thus, he tried to cut short every sinful desire and every impulse towards sin, as soon as he noticed them in his soul.
Here we can see at once how much he is not like us, great sinners. What sins, what temptations hold sway in our souls! How powerless and weak we are when we have to conquer sin, because we did not take up battle against it in due time, and when it has already mastered our soul, then it is too difficult to overcome and drive from our souls… But as soon as Fr. John noticed sinful movements within himself—for he had them—he was a man, like us—he immediately halted them and entered into a fierce struggle with the enemy and tempter. And the enemy immediately noticed that an absolutely unusual servant of the altar stood before him, and he began to attack him so that others would see. One minister of the Church who often served together with Fr. John at the beginning of his ministry has said, “How many times I saw how Fr. John was fettered by the enemy while serving: His face would darken during prayer, he would stop, stand motionlessly, and it was clear that some terrible battle was going on. But he would call upon the name of the Lord, and he would become entirely lucid, shake off the enemy’s fog, and briskly and cheerfully go, in the grace of God, to perform his service.” Waging such a battle with his sinful urges and with the enemy of our salvation, Fr. John began to quickly grow spiritually.
And there was a moment where he turned into a wonderworker, first of Kronstadt, and then of all Russia. We know how his fame has crossed the borders of Russia, because requests were brought to him from literally all the ends of the earth to pray with his powerful and bold prayers at the dread throne of the Lord of Glory. We have had many great Russian righteous ones who worked many miracles, but such a sea of innumerable miracles that surrounded Fr. John in the second half of his pastoral life was a unique phenomenon! No wonder his admirers and spiritual children would say that it reminded them of the Gospel times. As miracles were performed around the Savior, so there was around His faithful servant an unceasing flow of miracles!
Such a man of prayer and wonderworker the Lord sent to the Russian people before the most disastrous times. Fr. John warned us, sounding the alarm. He spoke about it all the time in his homilies in his last years. He would say, “Russians, defend your good and God-fearing tsar. If you defend him, then Russia will be strong and glorious in the fear of enemies and the joy of friends for a long time still. But if you don’t defend him, they will kill your tsar, and Russia, and they will dishonor you, and take your very name from you!”
How terribly his prophecy came true… The Russian people did not listen to the great prophet and clairvoyant, whom the Lord sent to our Motherland and our people, and that terrible grief descended upon Russia that continues to this day. But we believe in the prayerful assistance of our great intercessor! Fr. John never denied anyone his pastoral prayers while he was yet living on the Earth. Now, when he is at the dread Throne of the Lord of Glory, he stands in glory with the great saints of God, and, of course, he has not forgotten us and has not forgotten our poor Motherland, and intercedes there with his fiery prayer. By his holy prayers, may the Lord finally send our suffering people the desired deliverance from all of these sorrows, from this turmoil, from this atheist yoke. Amen.