This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9 -- Feast of Saint Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow

This is recent enough to be well attested, and yet the story is as strange as fiction. 

Not much doubt about the artist's sympathies
Philip started out life as a Russian aristocrat named Feodor Stepanovich Kolchev.  Grand Prince Vasili III brought young Feodor into his court, where he was friendly with the Grand Prince's young son, Ivan.  When they were somewhat older, Vasili died of an infection, leaving his (much younger, half Serbian, second) wife Elena to be regent until Ivan could be crowned Tsar.  The Russian aristocracy had never liked Elena.  It was around this time that Feodor left Moscow and all the luxuries of life.  Some contended he was part of a failed conspiracy against Elena, but others said he was called by God to a holy life. 

Whatever the reason, he worked as a shepherd for a while before joining a monastery at age 30.  He took the name Philip and worked as a blacksmith and a baker for a while.  By age 41, he was the abbot of the monastery, overseeing the construction of canals, watermills, a brickyard, and two cathedrals.  As he was obviously no slouch, he got the nod for the Metropolitan of Moscow's gig when it opened up.  He put on the mitre in 1566 with an understanding that his old pal Tsar Ivan IV (often called Ivan the Terrible) would disband his hated secret police (the Oprichniki).  They weren't disbanded until 1572, which suggests something about the relationship between these two childhood friends. 

Philip called Ivan out during a High Mass and refused to give him a blessing.  To be fair, Ivan had been liquidating noble families for years on the supposition that some of them might be engaged in treasonous plots.  The mid-winter exile of 12,000 boyars (aristocrats) and then murder of any peasants who offered them food or shelter during their trek was more than any bishop should have to countenance.

I don't reckon Phil looked quite this good on his last day, nor Malyuta so clownish
The sixteenth century in England was a tough time for bishops.  The whipsaw between Anglicanism and Catholicism led a good many to the scaffold.  Would they have found comfort or despair if they were aware that their brother-in-Christ, Philip, was suffering similar persecution?  Ivan had Philip arrested on charges of sorcery (?!) and loose living.  He confined him to a monastic cell -- iron-collar, shackles, the whole bit -- and reminded the guards to forget to feed him for a few days.  Then they bounced him to a dingier monastery where he was left to rot while a synod of brave bishops officially stripped him of his office. He lingered in the cell a year or so until one of the worst malefactors in the Oprichniki, Malyuta Skuratov, strangled him to death. 

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