The Holy Father who brought the word of God to every heart

Saint Philaret of Moscow - a holy father of the modern church

Saint Philaret of Moscow

Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow was called the new Chrysostom because of the eloquence and lucidity of his sermons. He was also a prominent 19th-century theologian, scholar and biblical translator. He ascended to sainthood by living a righteous and pious life, preaching the word of God and not giving in to the temptations of fame, authority and power.

He sought to reach every heart and mind with the word of God. A paradoxical situation existed in the Russian society of the time. Despite a shared religious identity, Russian Orthodox believers did not have a common language to express the tenets of their faith and write religious texts; nor there was a translation of the Holy Scripture into modern Russian. Translating the Bible into modern Russian became the work of his life. He desired to make the biblical text available to every Russian in clear and lucid language. A modern translation of the Bible would thus be the surest way of elaborating a language of the Christian faith understood and spoken by every believer.

He gave special priority to working with the educated Russians to help them overcome widespread misconceptions in their faith. In doing so, he relied on his extensive knowledge and brilliant education. He was fluent in German, French, Greek and Latin, and was one of the few people in Russia proficient in Hebrew. His contemporaries remembered him as an outstanding lecturer and educator. As a professor of the Religious Academy in Saint Petersburg, he developed full-scale lecture courses in all religious disciplines, including dogmatic theology, patristics, homiletics, canonical law, and many others.

He also corresponded and communicated extensively with prominent intellectuals like Alexander Pushkin,  Nikolay Gogol, Vasily Zhukovsky, and Fyodor Tyutchev. Foreign crowded outside his door, even though a meeting with Metropolitan Philaret was not a part of the official protocol.

He authored one of Russia's commentaries on a book from the Bible, titled  “Remarks conducive to the thorough understanding of the  Book  of Genesis, and the translation thereof into modern Russian.” His work was published in 1816. The book was not simply an essay in biblical commentary, but also a model for the other biblical translators and commentators.

Yet Saint Philaret knew that beyond knowledge, one needed to live one's faith to achieve salvation. He viewed his contemporary Saint Seraphim of Sarov as an example of the lived faith. He made saint Seraphim his spiritual father and facilitated the publication of evidence and testimony on the life and feats of Seraphim of Sarov, contributing to his eventual glorification by the Church at the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, every member of the Russian Orthodox Church is familiar with the Catechism of Saint Philaret of Moscow and the synodal translation of the Holy Bible, made possible by his perseverance, intellect and talent. He made the doctrine of the Orthodox Church accessible to large numbers of believers without distorting or diluting it. This achievement made him to his contemporaries what the Holy Fathers were in the early ages of the Church.

November 30, 2021
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