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Light of Bulgaria - Saint John Great Wonderworker of Rila

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
          SPRAZNIKOM ON THE GREAT AND HOLY FEAST OF Saint John Great Wonderworker of Rila Kontakion  Tone 4 Having emulated the life of the angels ,O Saint/
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2004
      Wonderworker of Rila

      Kontakion  Tone 4

      Having emulated the life of the angels ,O Saint/ Thou didst renounce all
      worldly things and turn to Christ./And armed with His commandments thou was
      pillar secure before all enemy's attacks./Wherefore we cry to thee/Rejoice
      O Father John,/most brilliant light.

             Light of Bulgaria

      October 19

           In 865, more than 100 years before St. Viadimir accepted Christianity
      and the subsequent conversion of Kievan Rus', the saintly King Boris I of
      the neighboring Bulgarian state embraced the Orthodox faith together with
      his people. Through the apostolic labors of the renowned missionary
      brothers, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Christianity became firmly rooted among
      these western Slavs and began to bring forth fruit.

           From this inaugural period of Bulgaria's Orthodox history, the most
      highly esteemed saint is unquestionably the wonderworker St. John of Rila,
      born shortly before the repose of St. Methodius in 885. His significance
      for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church may be compared to that of St. Sergius
      for Russia Like the Saint of Radonezh, St. John has been accorded, over the
      centuries, the great love and devotion of his people. And not only
      Bulgarians, but Greeks and Russians came to know and venerate him; he was
      the patron saint of one of Russia's greatest luminaries, St. John of
      Kronstadt, who is also commemorated on October 19. Although the Rila
      Monastery has long since been closed and turned into a tourist attraction
      by the atheist communists, it is still regarded as the most sacred shrine
      of Bulgaria, drawing many pilgrims who come to venerate the incorrupt
      relics and entreat the prayers of this great ! wonder-worker and spiritual
      hero of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.[IMAGE]    St. John was born in a
      village by the name of Skrino, near the ancient city of Sredets (now
      Sofia). His parents, of Bulgarian ancestry, were God-fearing people, and
      from an early age the Saint was disposed towards a life of piety and good
      deeds. Some lazy villagers mocked his godly behavior, but the boy learned
      to disregard their taunts.

          Still in his youth, the Saint distributed his possessions among the
      poor and went to a monastery where he became a monk. After mastering the
      virtues of obedience and humility, he was graced with a divine vision
      whereby he was led to an uninhabited mountain. There he built a small hut
      for himself. Dressed only in a leather coat end sustaining himself on wild
      plants, he spent his time in fasting, prayer, vigil and other ascetic
      labors, preserving a golden silence which is, in the words of St. Isaac the
      Syrian, the mystery of the future age.

          The Saint's nephew, a child by the name of Luke, fled secretly from his
      parents and came to his uncle, desiring to follow his manner of life. The
      boy's father, discovering his son's whereabouts and incited by the devil,
      went to the holy man and scolded him furiously, calling him an evil
      deceiver and accusing him of stealing his son. He grabbed the boy out of
      the wilderness and dragged him back into the world. Foreseeing that Luke
      would later most certainly fall into the trap of the devil, the Saint
      prayed to God: Lord Jesus Christ, see the sorrow of my heart and "show me a
      token for good" (Ps. 85:17), for Thou hast said: "Suffer little children to
      come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven"
      (Matt. 19:14). And what happened? After father and son had gone but a short
      distance-O Lord, Thy divine Providence!--a snake bit the child and he died
      a quick and untroubled dea! th. His father, acknowledging his mistake,
      returned to the Saint in repentance, while the Saint glorified God, knowing
      that by the temporary death of his body the child' s soul had been saved
      from a future and eternal death.


      Caskect with the fragrant Holy wonderworking Relics of Saint John of Rila

       [IMAGE]    The demons could no longer bear the Saint's ascetic labors.
      They appeared one night in the form of robbers, beat him up and chased him
      away from his place. Entering deeper into the wilderness of the Rila
      mountain; the Saint made his dwelling there in the hollow of a big tree. By
      God's providence the wilderness grew peas with which the holy hermit
      nourished himself for along time. Once, some shepherds who had enjoyed the
      Saint's hospitality stole some of the peas and went their way. But when
      they stopped to eat, they found the pods empty. Ashamed of their misdeed,
      the shepherds returned to the holy hermit and asked his forgiveness.

          On another occasion there came to the Saint a man possessed. When he
      was still a stadium's distance away (about 220 yards), he fell to the
      ground, writhing and crying: "Fire burns me, I cannot go any further!" His
      companions begged the holy man to say a prayer for him. The Saint did so,
      and the man was loosed from his tormentors.

          Seeking to avoid human glory, 'the Saint penetrated still further into
      the mountain, to an unknown and nearly inaccessible place where he settled
      in a cave under a high rock. The demons, continuing their harassment, threw
      him down, but the Saint climbed onto his rock once again and finally, with
      God's help, the demons disappeared. From then on an angel of God brought
      him food every day, fulfilling the written word: "Man did eat the bread of
      angels" (Ps. 77:28).


                                                           Holy  Rock on which
      saint John stood for 6 years in prayers and contemplation ,enduring many
      struuggles against demons

          It was while the Saint was living in this cave that there came to
      Sredets the pious Bulgarian king Peter. Having heard about the man of God,
      the king sent nine hunters into the Rila wilderness to seek him out. It
      took five days for them to discover his whereabouts. Receiving the Saint's
      blessing, they told him of the king's desire to see him and: to have the
      pleasure of meeting with him. As the men were hungry, the Saint offered
      them a loaf of bread brought by the angel. Even after all nine were fully
      satisfied, half of the loaf still remained. struck by this miracle,. the
      hunters returned to the king and told him what they had experienced. The
      king decided to go to the mountain himself to see the Saint. But the place
      was steep and craggy, and he was unable to reach it. Only from afar did he
      see the high rock with the cave where the Saint abode. A second time the
      king sent an invitation to the Saint,! but the latter was reluctant to
      abandon his silence. He only lauded the king's piety and promised that they
      would see each other in the kingdom of God, provided they brought fruits
      worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8). Saddened that his plea had not succeeded,
      the king departed for his city. Later he sent the Saint a gift of gold and
      fruit and wrote him the following letter:

           "To my venerable Father John, wilderness dweller of Rila, from King

          "Having heard about the God-loving nature of your Holiness and of your
      angelic life, I desired to see your Reverence, hoping to receive great
      benefit from converse with you. The vainglory of this world, with its
      pleasures and riches, drowns us in the waves of the sea and, darkened by
      agitations and worries, we cannot direct ourselves toward the light of true
      repentance. We therefore desired to partake of some enlightenment from Your
      Reverence, Holy Father. But I was deprived even of that grace on account of
      my many sins. I beg you, therefore, send me some consolation and a message
      to cool the burning heat of my sorrow, for you know, honorable Father, how
      the stormy turmoil of temptations and agitations possesses the hearts of

          The Saint received the king's gifts and his epistle, and sent the
      following answer:

          "To the pious autocrat of the Bulgarian Scepter, King Peter, from poor

          "To accept all the gifts of your Majesty is not beneficial to me,
      Therefore I retain only the fruit, praising your love. The gold must be
      needed for your kingdom; it is of great harm to monks and altogether
      unsuitable for ascetics for, even if they should have it, of what use is it
      to them?

          "O King, if you want to inherit the heavenly kingdom, be meek and
      easily accessible to your subjects, having these royal virtues, namely,
      compassion and mercy! Through them your purple robe and crown of royal
      dignity will glitter even more brightly. May all who enter and depart your
      Majesty's palace be joyful. Avoid injustice and extortion. Keep death in
      mind as an inseparable companion, and let sighs and tears be as your
      beloved children. Be obedient to your Mother the Church of Christ, and
      honor her Patriarchs. And so the King of kings, when He sees your humility,
      shall give thee of those good things which He has prepared in the heavenly
      kingdom for those who love Him!"

          The king, receiving this epistle from the Saint, kissed it and read it
      repeatedly, enjoying it like some treasure and finding therein great

          There came to the Saint in Rile many brothers, begging him to accept
      them in their desire to follow his divine way of life. With the increase of
      these disciples, a church was built and a monastery. Through his prayers
      the Saint guided many along the saving path to Christ and healed many who
      were sick or possessed.

          Having foreseen the end of his life, the ever-memorable Father partook
      of the Holy Mysteries, then blessed his disciples and surrendered his soul
      into the hands of God on August 18, in the year 916. The monks buried him
      there in his cave.

          Later, a sweet fragrance began to issue from the Saint's grave. Thirty
      years after his repose his disciples opened the grave and found his relics
      glorified with divine grace: they were incorrupt and full of fragrance.
      Afterwards, the Saint appeared to his disciples and directed them to send
      his relies to Sredets. There, many miracles took place which inspired the
      governor Hrelyu, who venerated the Saint, to build a large monastery
      dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos.[IMAGE]    When the Hungarian
      king occupied Sredets, he took the relics and transferred them to his city
      of Estergom. The bishop of that city insulted the Saint, claiming that he
      could not find him listed in the ancient codices. He was punished for his
      irreverenc! e by becoming mute. Later the bishop repented. With humility he
      approached the Saint's relics and his tongue was loosened. The king, on
      seeing this miracle, embellished the reliquary with silver and gold and
      returned it with honor to Sredets, After the pious Bulgarian king Ivan Asen
      had venerated the holy relics, he wrote to the archbishop  who came
      together with the entire clergy of the monastery. They transferred the
      relics to the royal capital of Tirnovo where a church was soon built in
      honor of St. John. A feast was later established on October 19,
      commemorating this transfer which occurred in 1238.

          When the Moslem Hagarenes captured the city of Tirnovo late in the 11th
      century, the holy relics were transferred back to Rila Monastery. There
      they are located to this day, issuing unspeakably sweet fragrance and
      healing those who approach them with faith in the intercession of this
      God-bearing and wonder-working saint of Bulgaria.of Rila

      Article from Orthodox America

      We love to glorify the saints but we don't want to emulate them. / St
      Seraphim of Sarov
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