Commemorated on December 14 (Old Style)
Philaret was from the village of Amnia in Paphlagonia. Early in life, Philaret was a very wealthy man, but by distributing abundant alms to the poor he himself became extremely poor. However, he was not afraid of poverty, and, not heeding the complaints of his wife and children, he continued his charitable works with hope in God, Who said: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7). Once, while he was plowing in the field, a man came to him and complained that one of his oxen had died in the harness and that he was unable to plow with only one ox. Philaret then unharnessed one of his oxen and gave it to him. He even gave his remaining horse to a man who was summoned to go to war. He gave away the calf of his last cow, and when he saw how the cow pined for her missing calf, and the calf for the cow, he called the man and gave him the cow too. And thus the aged Philaret was left without food in an empty house. But he prayed to God and placed his hope in Him. And God did not abandon the righteous one to be put to shame in his hope. At that time the Empress Irene reigned with her young son, Constantine. According to the custom of that time, the empress sent men throughout the whole empire to seek the best and most distinguished maiden to whom she could wed her son, the emperor. By God’s providence, these men happened to stay overnight in Philaret’s house, and they saw his most beautiful and modest granddaughter Mary, the daughter of his daughter Hypatia, and took her to Constantinople. The emperor was well pleased with her, married her, and moved Philaret and all his family to the capital, giving him great honors and riches. Philaret did not become proud as a result of this unexpected good fortune, but, thankful to God, he continued to perform good works even more than he had before, and thus he continued until his death. At the age of ninety he summoned his children, blessed them, and instructed them to cleave to God and to God’s law, and with his clairvoyant spirit he prophesied to all of them how they would live out this life, as once had Jacob. After that he went to the Rodolfia Monastery and gave up his soul to God. At his death his face shone like the sun, and after his death an unusual, sweet fragrance came forth from his body and miracles took place at his relics. This righteous man entered into rest in the year 797. His wife, Theosebia, and all his children and grandchildren lived a God-pleasing life and reposed in the Lord.
Hymm of Praise
Saint Philaret the Merciful
To the merciful one, God shows mercy;
He never ceases to show mercy.
He hears the prayers of the merciful;
He gives gifts a hundredfold.
Philaret the Merciful
Placed himself wholly in God’s hands.
By his compassion, he amazed the world;
He was faithful to God, even in suffering.
Philaret did not compete
For honor or precedence.
We use this age to purchase
The Eternal Kingdom and blessedness.
The Lord spoke a wondrous word:
“Trade until I return!
When the time is right,
I will repay you with great riches.”
When Philaret became impoverished
Because of almsgiving beyond measure,
Because of truth and goodness-
God visited him from on high:
Visited him and bestowed mercy,
Bestowed mercy and rewarded him,
Just as once upon the faithful Job,
He bestowed mercy and a reward.
Virtue is like a thirst. When a man begins to drink of it, he becomes more thirsty and seeks to drink of it all the more. He who begins to exercise the virtue of compassion knows no measure and acknowledges no limit. St. Philaret was no less generous when he was impoverished than when he was wealthy. When his granddaughter became empress, he became a rich man once again, but no less generous. One day, he told his wife and children to prepare the best feast that they could and said: “Let us invite our King and Lord, with all His noblemen, to come to the feast.” Everyone thought that the old man was thinking of inviting to dinner his son-in-law, the emperor, and they all worked as hard as they could and prepared the feast. Meanwhile, Philaret went around the streets and gathered all the needy, the beggars, the blind, the outcasts, the lame and the infirm, and brought them to the feast. Placing them at the table, he ordered his wife and sons to serve at the table. After the feast was completed, he put a gold coin in the hand of each guest and dismissed them. Then everyone understood that by “the King” he meant the Lord Christ Himself, and by “the noblemen” he meant beggars and those in need. He also said that one need not look at the money that one gives to beggars, but rather one should mix up the money in one’s pocket and give only what the hand removes from the pocket. The hand will draw out whatever God’s providence ordains.
* This excerpt is from “The Prologue of Ohrid” by St. Nicholas Velimirovic