Church News 1998

This is the Church News article mentioned by Fr. Elia in the previous post.


On Saturday November 8/21, on the 13th anniversary of repose of the third First Hierarch of the ROCOR, at 3pm the translation took place of his coffin from the crypt of the cemetery chapel of Holy Trinity Monastery to a recently prepared final resting place under the monastery's cathedral church. Next to the new addition to the cathedral, there is a resting place of the second First Hierarch of the ROCOR Metropolitan Anastassy

In order to avoid any possible surprises during the translation of the coffin to another location, Archbishop Laurus, in presence of several clerics, including the deputy Abbott of the Holy Trinity Monastery, Archimandrite Luke, decided to open the coffin after it was removed from the immured burial vault several days previously. lmmediately after the coffin was opened the clergy present at this event took a number of photographs before the remains were cleaned of dust and a bit of cobweb. Then Archbishop Laurus sealed the coffin and let it stand for a few days, until Friday November 7/20.

When Metropolitan Philaret's coffin was opened it was discovered that his body was totally incorrupt. When the dust was removed it became obvious that also the vestments of the Metropolitan looked as if they had been just put on. Even the paper with an absolution prayer in his hand, as well as the Gospel which was lay on his chest, also, suffered no changes. His mantia which covered the coffin was found to be in perfect order just dusty The color of hls face and hands darkened a bit only after they were washed with rose water and wine. His legs also uncovered but not washed, retained their natural color.

News of the incorruption of the beloved and respected Archpastor spread like lightening. The spread of this news was also helped by official information given by the Synod's chancellery on the Internet.

The previous plans for translating the coffin called it to be carried in a church procession but then it started to rain and Archbtshop Laurus ordered the coffin be brought by car. On Friday, exactly at 3pm the sound of the huge bell from the bell tower of the monastery was heard and in about 10 minutes the car with the Metropolitan's coffin arrived at the entrance to the cathedral. Met by clergy and the monastery brotherhood, the coffin was carried into the church while singing the irmos "A help and refuge hath salvation become to me" and right after a panikhida was begun. lt was presided over by Archbishop Laurus with some 10 concelebrating priests and 6 deacons and protodeacons. In the church there were some 200 hundred people. After the panikhida, the coffin was moved near the wall and at 7pm a vigil service began.

Already knowing of the incorruption of Metropoltian Philaret a number of clergy and lay people insistently urged Archbishop Laurus to open the coffin for these 24 hours, but he categorically refused claiming that he had no blessing for it from his superior and that he already sent his report to Metropolitan Vitaly. At the same iime it became known that Archbishop Laurus forbade any copies be made of the existing photographs and even forbade that they be shown to anyone.

The next day, on Saturday November 8/21 the Divine Liturgy was served for the feast of St Michael, the Archangel. Bishop Gabriel, who intended to participate, unexpectedly fell ill and because of a high fever could not attend. Eighteen priests participated in the Liturgy, 11 deacons and protodeacons while a number of priests came to Liturgy, but prayed among the lay people in the cathedral. This service was attended by some 400 people. During the communion of the clergy, Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov delivered an excellent homily in which he outlined a spiritual portrait of the reposed First Hierarch.

After the end of Liturgy at which communion was given from two chalices and before a panikhida, Archbishop Laurus said that finally, after waiting for 13 years the additionai crypt had been built for the Metropolitan's coffin and that he himself and the Synod of Bishops received numerous and insistent requests to bury finally the remnants of Metropolitan Philaret. Archbishop Laurus also at great length explained why he refused the wish of clergy and lay people to keep the coffin open, and he had to admit, that his refusal "was a cause for disappointment and sadness." He repeated again that he had sent a report to Metropolitan Vitaly and now, it is all up to the Synod's decision as to how to respond to the incorruption of Metropolitan Philaret. At the end of his sermon. Archbishop Laurus called upon the faithful to not so much concentrate on this event, but to pray for the Metropolitan and also to him until the will of God becomes obvious. A majority of clergy and faithful were at a loss regarding the absence at this feast of Metropolitan Vitaly, who only a year ago disappointed all by his absence from the funeral of Jose the guardian of the mrryrh-gushing icon, whose body was also found to be incorrupt. Yet the absence of the Metropolitan and also other Archpastors at such a solemn occasion as a translation of incorrupt relics of a former First Hierarch, could not dampen the festive mood of all the participants. After the end of the panikhida, the coffin with the Metropolitan's relics was carried in a church procession around the cathedral and after a short litia put in the crypt permanently, while a marble sarcophagus is made.

The translation of the Metropolitan's coffin concluded with a memorial trapeza offered by the monastery's brotherhood. The trapeza included several rooms due to the number of people to be seated.

While a very young archimandrite in Kharbin, Metropolitan Philaret was absolutely irreconcilable toward the Moscow Patriarchate. Even then, when influenced [tricked -jh] by the propaganda of Soviet hierarchs in the 40's during the occupation cf the Far East by the Red Army, the entire episcopate acknowledged the Moscow Patriarchate [including Archbishop John of Shanghai) and his own father Bishop Dimrtri of Hailar together with other hierarchs repatriated to USSR - only Archrmandrite Philaret in his eloquent and forceful sermons spoke of the lies of the MP and even refused to serve molebens for those who were to be repatriated. On several occasions he was summoned for interrogations (at one of them he was even beaten] and then an effort was made to kill him: a house in which he lived was set on fire and windows and doors of the ground floor were blocked. Fr. Philaret managed to escape by jumping from the window of the second floor, while rather severely burned. As a result of these burns, until the end he suffered a slight disfiguration of the lower part of his face and some bending of his head. His vocal cords also suffered.

The reposed Metropolitan very much respected Metropolitan Anthony, corresponded with him and was his true disciple, agreeing with all his views and convictions.

In connection with the revealed incorruption of Metropolitan Philaret, it is proper to inform our readers about another case which probably is not known even now.

When Metropolitan Anthony died in Sremskri Karlovci and had no money at all, Patriarch Varnava called the Secretary of the Synod of the ROCOR [at that time Count George Grabbe] and asked him to purchase the best and most expensive coffin he could find. Karlovci is a small town and as it became known later, the very best and expensive coffin had slits in the bottom. The funeral service for Metropolitan Anthony was conducted in the patriarchal cathedral in Belgrade. For this occasion the Yugoslavian government gave all their Russian employees tirne off. The Belgrade cemetery, which had a very big Russran section [in which was an enlarged replica of the chapel of lveron in Moscow) and where Metropolitan willed to be buried, was on the outskirts of the capital. The Metropolitan's coffin was brought to the gates of cemetey by the car and then to the church carried by the clergy. At that moment two priests noted that a mixture of oil and wine had leaked onto their shoulders. [Metropolitan received the sacrament of oil].

About some two years after the burial of Metropolitan Anthony it was discovered that there was underground water in the crypt. The sarcophagus had to be pulled apart and the coffin lifted out in order to be able to work. Archimandrite Theodossy was present, a faithful servant and friend of the Metropolitan. When the marble part of the sarcophagus was removed, it was obvious that the coffin looked as if it had just been put in. According to an admission of Father Theodossy he badly wanted to open the lid of coffin but he did not dare to. The workers noticed his emotions and started asking questions about who the deceased was to him and when he died. When they found out that the Metropolitan had died some two years previously the workers were astonished and said that after such a period of time they normally could not work without masks and when they found out that this was a bishop they piously crossed themselves and declared that undoubtedly this must have been a saintly man.

It is also interesting to note that Metropolitan Anastassy was buried on the fifth day after his repose in a warm period at the end of May. The funeral home attendants at that time asked what must be done in the Orthodox Church to have no change in the appearance of Metropolitan Anastassy and no odor. They were told that there must be a pious life.

Unfortunately, spiteful people spread rumors that both Metropolitans Anastassy and Philaret were embalmed. At present time there are still many witnesses alive who participated in the organization of the funerals of both First Hierarchs who know that the procedure for both Metropolitans was the same as for every 0rthodox clergyman: after repose, their bodies are washed and vested by clergy who themselves lay them into coffins. In both cases, the funeral directors delivered the coffins to the Synod of Bishops and the entire participation of those funeral homes was limited only to delivering the coffins from New York to Jordanville. The Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, His Grace Bishop Gabriel, regarding this false information issued an official statement categorically denying the possibility of embalming.

In reporting this event in The Life of the ROCOR, a bulletin published in St. Petersburg, issue # 11(44), noted not without reason that "recently we were informed from Jordanville that the relics of Metropolitan Philaret were again lowered into grave and given up to the soil, which evokes at the very least bewilderment."
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Unprofitable Servant said...

I read a few years ago that then- Archbishop Laurus (Skurla) appeared extremely irritated when he learned that the body of ROCOR Metropolitan Philaret was found to be incorrupt, and said something like, "Let him rot like the rest of them!"

I do not remember where I read this puzzling account, but it made a strong impression upon me. I even mentioned this story to my former ROCOR priest (now with the MP-ROCOR), and he said he had never heard such a thing.

Joanna Higginbotham said...

I heard that he said, "Let him rot like the rest of us."

I've seen several references to this. He might have said it in Russian. 0ne account, obviously trying to downplay it, substitutes the word "decompose" for "rot." But I suspect the word "rot" better conveys the spirit in which Met. Laurus blurted this out. That spirit certainly shocked those who heard him more than the exact words. There were enough reports that he was visibly agitated by this SIGN AGAINST the union.

St. John also gave us a sign that witnesses say agitated Met. Laurus.

See: NOV 3, 2008
K. Preobrazhensky on Met. Laurus & KGB