Saint Philip II of Moscow was the Metropolitan of Moscow during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. He is remembered as one of the few heads of the Russian Church who openly opposed the Tsar for his treatment of dissent and the lawlessness of the Oprichnina rule.
A descendant from a noble family, and a favourite with the royal court, he preferred strict monastic life to the career of a statesman. He left Moscow secretly when he was 30 years of age. Dressed as a peasant, hr reached Lake Onega, and ultimately the Solovki Monastery. As he was living there, he was doing the most difficult jobs. Working at a forge, he was practising incessant prayer while wielding a hammer. He fervently attended the prayer services. He always came first and left last. In 1546, he received ordination as the hegumen of the Solovki Monastery and presided over its spiritual revival.
In the meantime in Moscow, tensions were intensifying between the Tsar and the nobility who were resisting his reforms. Ivan felt the need for a spiritual advisor, and also a figure of authority to put a check on the ambitions of the nobility. He felt a need for someone like Saint Phillip to become the Metropolitan of the Russian Church.
The saint refused to accept this position for a long time but finally agreed. Eventually, however, tensions between him and the Tsar began to grow, as he objected to the lawless practices of the monarch and his terror-shock troops, the Oprichniki. During a liturgy on 2 March 1568, the tsar with his Oprichniki entered the church, Saint Philip refused to bless them and denounced the executions and other lawless acts in the two previous years.
At the behest of the Tsar, the saint was brought before the Boyar Duma for trial. Many charges were made against him, including sorcery. False witnesses were brought in, many from the Solovki Monastery. The saint was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. To humiliate him further, Saint Philip was made to serve a liturgy, where he was publicly disrobed and dragged out of the church. "I am come upon the earth, just like all my ancestors, – humbly answered the saint, – prepared to suffer for truth".
After spending one year shackled and chained, the saint died a martyr's death at the hands of his assassin.
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