Lives of Saints - Saint Philaret the Merciful Christianity - Books
And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell;                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.               
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Saint Philaret the Merciful

Saint Philaret was born in the beginning of the 8th century in the Paphlagonian region of Asia Minor (now territory of Turkey). He was a rich nobleman, whose righteous parents brought him up in the spirit of love for God and compassion for people. He retained those merits for all of his life. He lived happily with his wife and 3 children (a son and two daughters). Being rich did not harden his heart like it happened to many other people in similar circumstances. On the contrary, he felt compassion towards the poor and cared for them always bearing in mind that faith alone without good deeds is barren. Many paupers, widows and orphans knew him as kind person and generous benefactor.

Many years passed by, and then through God’s will, St. Philaret was tried by affliction, like in the old days when Righteous Job, the-Much-Suffering, was tested. Quite unexpectedly, Izmail Arabs attacked the area where St.Philaret lived and devastated the land. They captured his slaves, livestock and fields, leaving him with just a house, a small field and a couple of oxen. Without bemoaning, Philaret accept his misfortunes saying, like Job: "God giveth, God taketh away. Blessed be His name for ages."

So Saint Philaret had to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; poverty and misfortunes struck them. But St. Philaret did not become embittered; he continued to be compassionate and to support the poor. When one of his needy neighbors lost his only ox and asked St. Philaret for help, the latter gave him one of the two he had. Not long after that, St. Philaret gave away his second ox under similar circumstances. Philaret’s wife was chiding him that he cared more for others than for his own family. It hurt to hear such reproaches, but he could not refuse when asked for help and he hoped that God would not leave him without His help. Sometimes he would give his clothes away to the needy. Almost every time after a good deed, he got in trouble with his family, he had to listen to his wife reproaching him, and his children weeping.

Thus Philaret’s family got completely impoverished. Sometimes out of compassion to Philaret’s family, neighbors sent them some bread or flour. But merciful God does not subject a righteous one to trials exceeding one’s limits. God chose to put an end to Philaret’s sufferings and reward him for his patience and kind heart. This is what happened.

The empress Irina who was ruling Constantinople with her son Constantine the VI (780-797) decided to get her son married. With this aim in view, she sent out her grandees to towns and villages of her empire to find the most beautiful and intelligent girls from among whom the king could pick out a bride.

Among other places, the envoys visited the village where St. Philaret lived. As usual Philaret hastened to welcome the travelers and offered them to stay in his big and once rich but now empty house. Kind-hearted neighbors took care of providing food for the noble guests. When the King’s envoys were telling of the reason they were traveling they asked Philaret about his family. They found out that besides a son and daughters there also lived 3 young beautiful grand daughters in Philaret’s house. When the guests saw them, they were impressed by the beauty and modesty of one of them, Maria, so much that they made St. Philaret agree to take his family to the capital for the emperor to see her among other chosen brides.

Beautiful Maria, brought up in the spirit of unpretentious sagacity, was also gentle and quiet by nature. The emperor Constantine was charmed by her so much that soon he married her, and Philaret the Merciful became the empress’ grandfather. As a close relative of the emperor he was granted houses and rich estates, he was respected and honored. Philaret gratefully perceived all those happy changes as a gift from God. Not long after that, two other granddaughters of St. Philaret also married noblemen of the emperor’s court. His wife and children, regretting their being reproachful in the past days, surrounded him with kindness and respect. But even after St. Philaret found himself living in the capital with all the respect and wealth of that new position, he never forgot to help the poor and used his wealth to support them.

By the end of his long life, the day of his death was revealed to him. He called his wife, children and grandchildren and announced it to them. Giving them his last blessing he said, "You know and you have seen the way I lived, my dear children. God granted me rich possessions in the beginning; then He tested me with poverty; seeing that I endure patiently and ungrudgingly everything that God sent me, he rose me again to become famous and equal to the noble and the powerful of this world. But I did not lock my wealth in the trunks, it was through the poor and needy that I sent it to God. Please, be always merciful, protect widows and orphans, visit those in sickness and imprisonment, do not miss sermons, never take anything that belongs to others, never talk spitefully, never rejoice in misfortunes of either friends or enemies, pay homage to the dead and remember me, a sinner, in your prayers."

Then saying, "Thy will be done," St. Philaret gave his Holy soul into God’s hands (in the year of 792). The emperor, the empress, grandees, many noblemen and poor people were crying in the funeral procession that took his body to be buried at the Constantinople monastery of the Lord’s Judgment. Many generations of Constantinople citizens were remembering St. Philaret’s mercifulness.


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