紀念日 / Memorial date
Saint Ivan of Rila / Saint John of Rila (Ivan Rilski)
Saint John of Rila, a.k.a. Ivan of Rila (876 – c. 946) was the first Bulgarian hermit. He was revered as a saint while he was still alive. The legend surrounding him tells of wild animals that freely came up to him and birds that landed in his hands. His followers founded many churches in his honor, including the famous Rila Monastery. One of these churches, Saint John of Rila was only discovered in 2008 in the town of Veliko Tarnovo. Today, he is honored as the patron saint of the Bulgarians and as one of the most important saints in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
St. Ivan Rilski is patron of numerous temples and monasteries in Bulgaria, among which he founded the Rila Monastery. According to tradition, on the eve of the feast of the monastery is done vigil, which traditionally attended by hundreds of pilgrims from all over the country. During the day there is held a festive Divine Liturgy. Patronal festival celebrated Sofia Seminary “Sv. Ivan Rilski”.
According to legend, Saint John of Rila was known to have performed a multitude of miracles in order to help the people. These miracles brought him undesired fame as he tried to live the life of a hermit and avoid contact with others. With his growing number of followers, many young believers and supporters set up camps around his cave, seeking a blessing from him. This led the way to the creation of the Rila Monastery, which is considered to be the foremost monastery in Bulgaria.
Word of the miracles he performed reached the capital of the Bulgarian Empire - Great Preslav. Tsar Peter I (son of tsar Simeon I) took a 450 km trip to the Rila Mountains in order to meet St. John and seek spiritual advice. Their meeting is described in detail in one of the hagiologies of St. John of Rila as well as in the Testament of St. John of Rila itself. After a long and exhausting trip, tsar Peter I reached the place where St. John of Rila lived, however, upon arrival, the tsar then realized that the dwelling of the saint was inaccessible, probably due to the rough local terrain. As the medieval hagiologies point out, St. John of Rila refused to meet the tsar in person to avoid the temptation of vanity and pride due to the extraordinary visit. As such, the two men only bowed to each other from a distance. The emperor sent a soldier to deliver the gifts that were brought for the saint. St. John of Rila kept only a small portion of food and returned all of the gold and precious gifts, advising the tsar that monarchs need gold in order to protect the country and help the poor.
Shortly before his death (August 18, 946) St. John of Rila wrote his Testament (Zavet). A literary work and a moral message to his successors and to Bulgarian people.
St. Ivan of Rila, pray for us.