Feodor Stepanovich Kolychev was born approximately 100 miles from Moscow in the city of Galich. He had the good fortune of being associated with royalty and he joined the royal court of Grand Prince Vasili III. Vasili had a son named Ivan who Feodor developed a friendship with. However, conspiracy and deception were afoot and soon Feodor was forced to flee Moscow because of his benefactor’s involvement in a plot that gathered unwanted attention. So, Feodor fled from Vasili and his friend Ivan. He escaped to the mountains and spent some time consider what had transpired. The wounds perpetrated against him by political powers had driven him to painful reflection and as he stood inside a monastery, he heard the liturgist proclaim: “No man can serve two masters.” At these words, he made the decision to become a monk. So, around the age of thirty, he became a monk and left the political world behind–for a while. He took the monastic name of Philip and devoted himself to prayer and discipline.
At the age of forty-one, Philip became the hegumen of his monastery and lived into the leadership role exceedingly well. It may be that his childhood in the imperial courts had trained him well in leadership and management because soon the monastery had built an impressive array of buildings and improvements and kindled a spiritual revolution in the surrounding countryside. Philip was especially notable because of his personal involvement in the projects. Instead of relaxing and allowing power to soften him, he joined in with the brothers and did the exact same work he asked of the them. Though he was the hegumen, he was unafraid to pick up a shovel. The spiritual revival was largely a work of Philip’s careful work under a new and more demanding monastic rule. Contrary to the movement of so many other powers, Philip had high expectations of people and was confident that they could reach them if given time and assistance. Philip’s leadership at the monastery became legendary and attracted the attention of his boyhood friend Ivan. But this time Ivan was not known as Ivan son of Vasili but as Ivan the Terrible.
Ivan wanted his friend to come to Moscow and fill the position of metropolitan but Philip had one condition: the end of Ivan’s practice of oprichnina. Oprichnina had started when Ivan’s paranoia over revolution had gripped him so terribly that he had fled Moscow with many Church possessions and refused to return. He returned to Moscow on the condition that he be allowed to create a secret police with power to sweep away treason from Russia. The clergy consented and Ivan returned. Soon, the secret police (known as “oprichniki”) were scouring the country atop black horses and wearing black cowls. Their power was, for the most part, unchecked and they did as they pleased. If somebody became an enemy of Ivan then they often died at the hands of one of the oprichniki. The other powerful Russian people–and the Church in Russia–were held at bay by threat of men in black cowls who had a hound and broom imprinted upon the pommel of their saddle to symbolize their task: seeking out and sweeping away all who opposed the centralization of power in the hands of Ivan the Terrible. Philip agreed to become metropolitan only if Ivan would cease and desist from his politically sponsored campaigns of death. Ivan agreed and Philip was made bishop and metropolitan.
Yet, Ivan did not stop his manipulations. At first, he tried to hide the workings of the oprichniki but their murderous works were hard to conceal. Philip found out and so when Ivan came to the cathedral for a Lenten service, he publicly rebuked Ivan for his bloody works and refused to give him his blessing. Ivan was irate but it did not deter him from yet more slaughter and so he authorized the oprichniki to execute a massacre at Novgorod because of fear of treason and defection. Philip denounced Ivan again and it became increasingly apparent that Ivan could not buy the loyalty of the Church through his childhood friend. So, he decided to exercise his power and ruin Philip.
Philip was deposed and Ivan was able to manipulate various clerical professionals into arresting and imprisoning him in a monastery. Stripped of power and reputation, he spent the remainder of his life chained to a wall with less and less food every day. He was abused and punished for refusing to be bought. Then one night, shortly after taking communion, one of Ivan’s most trusted minions–Malyuta Skuratov–crept into his cell and strangled him to death. Though Ivan had modeled his oprichniki after the monastic orders and even hinted at times at wanting to become a monk, it was through the manipulative work of the Empire that he put to death his childhood friend and spiritual superior–Philip of Moscow.
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