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Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow

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January 9

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Our Father among the Saints Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow, was born in 1507 of noble family, and served for a time in the royal court. While still a young man, he secretly left Moscow and entered Solovki Monastery in the north, about the year 1538, a little over a hundred years after its founding. Because of his spiritual stature he was chosen against his will to succeed Abbot Alexis in 1548. As abbot, Philip was a great builder and beautifier of Solovki Monastery. He laid the foundations for the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, constructed cells, hermitages, and a hospital for the monks and for pilgrims, established a cattle yard on one of the islands, drained swamps and connected waterways by a series of canals and damns, built a mill and various workshops, and even invented ingenious machines and implements to help the monks in their work. His fame spread, and in 1566, by the will of Tsar Ivan IV, he was raised to the rank of Metropolitan of Moscow.

Tsar Ivan the Terrible revered Philip, even as Herod had revered Saint John the Baptist, and he had been a generous benefactor of Solovki Monastery. But because the Tsar had established the oprichnina, a state within a state, giving power to the oprichniki, who used it to oppress and rob the innocent, Philip told him the he could not be Metropolitan if the Tsar suffered the oprichniki to continue in power. This angered the Tsar, he told Philip that it was not for him to interfere in matters of state, and many hierarchs prevailed upon Philip to accept the Metropolitan's throne. But as the horrors committed by the oprichniki grew worse-thefts, false accusations, murders, and all manner of injustice and rapacity, with the knowledge of the Sovereign- Saint Philip could not remain silent. He rebuked the Tsar once and again for the reign of terror that he had brought upon his own people. The Tsar warned him to hold his peace and bless him to do as he wished. The Metropolitan answered that his silence brought sin upon the Sovereign. The Tsar threatened him with his wrath, and told him to resign his throne if he were not willing to comply. Saint Philip answered that he had not sought the Metropolitan's throne, and it was the Tsar who had deprived him of his hermitage on Solovki; but now the pastoral burden was upon him, he would not remain silent when the canons of the Church were broken.

The more the Tsar threatened Philip with his wrath, the more the holy hierarch stood fast and threatened the Tsar with judgment of God; Philip alone had the courage to rebuke the Tsar openly and oppose his iniquity. Finally the Tsar, finding false witnesses against Philip in his own monastery on Solovki, held a council against him in early November, 1568; the Saint had to endure the persecution of the Tsar who had torn him from his beloved monastery, the betrayal of his fellow hierarchs, and the slanders of his own spiritual children. He was imprisoned in Moscow, but because of the love of the people for him the Tsar feared him even in prison, and he was transferred to a monastery in Tver, where he spent a year in great hardships and continual prayer. On December 23, 1569, a royal messenger came, asking the Metropolitan's blessing for the Tsar's expedition to Novgorod. Saint Philip told him to do that which he came to do, then raised his hands in prayer to God. The Tsar's messenger fell upon him and suffocated the holy hierarch with a pillow. In 1591 his relics were transferred to Solovki, and in 1652 to the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow; many miracles were wrought through his holy relics (See also Oct. 5 and July 3).

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone

O successor of first prelates, pillar of Orthodoxy, champion of truth, new confessor, Saint Philip, thou didst lay down thy life for thy flock. Wherefore, since thou hast boldness with Christ, pray for the suffering Russian land and them that worthily honour thy holy memory.

Kontakion in the Third Tone

Let us praise most wise Philip, guide and teacher of Orthodoxy, herald of truth, emulator of Chrysostom, lamp of Russia, who fed his children spiritually with the food of his words; for by chanting praise with his tongue, he taught us to chant with our lips as an initiate of the grace of God.