• Florus and Laurus.
  • Emilian the Bishop, and Ilarion, Dionysius, and Hermippus
  • The Monk John of Ryl'sk
  • The Monk Christopher

Also remembered today are the four ascetics in the wilderness whose names are unknown; the Martyrs Hermas, Serapion, and Polienus (Romans); Sainted John V, Patriarch of Constantinople from 669-674; Sainted George I, Patriarch of Constantinople from 678-683; the Monk Makarios (830); and the Monk Barnabas, and his nephew Sophronios (Athens, 412). (No essays.)

The Martyrs Florus and Laurus were brothers by birth amd in spirit. They lived in the 2nd Century at Byzantium, but eventually settled in Illyria [now Yugoslavia]. They were stonemasons (their teachers in this craft were the Christians Proclus and Maximus, from whom also the brothers learned about Christianity.)

The governor of Illyria, Likaion, sent the brothers to a nearby district for work on the construction of a pagan temple [example]. They did the work, but distributed the money they earned to the poor.

Once the son of the local pagan-priest Mamertin was hit in the eye by a chip of stone from the construction and knocked unconscious. Florus and Laurus assured the upset father that his son would be healed. They awakened the boy and told him to have faith in Christ. The boy stated that Jesus Christ was the True God, the brothers prayed for him, and his eye was healed. This miracle brought the father to belief in Christ.

When the construction of the temple was completed, the brothers gathered together the Christians, and going through the temple, they smashed the idols. In the eastern part of the temple they set up the holy cross. Then they spent all night in prayer, illumined with heavenly light.

When he found out about these events, the head of the district condemned the former pagan-priest Mamertin, his son. and 300 Christians to death. But he sent Florus and Laurus back to the governor Likaion, who had them thrown down an empty well and buried.

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example of temple

The Martyrs Emilian the Bishop, and Ilarion, Dionysius, and Hermippus were born and lived in Armenia. After the death of their parents, Emilian, Dionysios, and Hermippos who were brothers, and Ilarion their teacher moved to Spoleto in Italy.

In Spoleto, Emilian began to preach the Gospel to the non-Christians. He won the deep respect of the Christian community for his strict and virtuous life, and he was chosen bishop in the city of Trebium and ordained by the Pope of Rome Marcellinus.

Once in Trebium, Emilian converted many people to Christ, but he was brought to trial before the emperor Mamimian (284-305). Emilian suggested that the emperor see the power of prayer to Christ for himself. A man was brought, crippled for a long time. However much the pagan-priests tried to heal him by praying to their idols, they accomplished nothing. Then Emilian, praying in the Name of Jesus Christ commanded the crippled man to rise up, which the man did and went to his home rejoicing.

This miracle was so convincing, that the emperor considered accepting the truth of Christ, but the pagan-priests told him that Emilian had worked magic. So, Emilian, Dionysios, Hermippos, Ilarion, and many other Christians were martyred.

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Pope Marcellinus

Emperor Mamimian

The Monk John of Ryl'sk (John of Rila, Ivan Rilski) -- a great spiritual ascetic of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and Heavenly Protector of the Bulgarian nation, was born in the year 876 in the village of Skrino in the Sredetsk district [ancient Sredets is now Sofia].

He was orphaned early in life and made his living as a cowherd. Once a rich man beat him for losing a cow with its calf. John cried and prayed that God would help him.

He did find the cow but the calf was in the River Struma [see reference. right] which was flowing high and strongly. John prayed, placed his tattered shirt on the water, made the sign of the cross over it, walked over the water to the calf, took it up in his arms, and returned to the bank of the river where the cow was standing.

The rich man, who was hiding in the forest, saw this miracle and was so afraid of John that he gave him a rich reward and sent him away.

At first, John pursued asceticism on an high and barren hill, eating but wild plants. His hut was made of brushwood. However, robbers came by night and, beating him, drove him away.

Then John found a deep cave and settled in it, but, eventually, his nephew Luke joined him. Since the area was quite unpopulated, so John, at first, considered the appearance of Luke to be a devilish trick. But Luke persuaded John that he sought after salvation of soul, so John lovingly accepted him. Nevertheless, Luke's father (John's brother) found them and took Luke away. But, on the way home Luke was bitten by a snake and died. John continued to visit Luke's grave thoughout his life.

For twelve years, John lived in the desolate cave, then he went into the Ryl'sk wilderness and settled into the hollow of a tree. He fasted and prayed, wept incessantly, and ate only grass until he was blessed by the sprouting of beans which he ate for a long time.

Once, a flock of stampeding sheep where chased by their shepherds to the place where John lived. John, amicably greeted them: "Ye arrive here hungry -- pluck yourself my beans and eat." Everyone ate and was satisfied. However, one shepherd gathered some of the beans in secret to hold in reserve. Along their way home, he offered the beans to his comrades, but the pods contained no beans. The shepherds returned to John penitent, and John said with a smile: "See, children, these fruits are appointed by God for subsistence in the wilderness."

From that time, the shepherds began to bring the sick and those afflicted to John and he healed them through prayer.

Neverthless, fearing that he was becoming a celebrity, John left that area and settled on an high and difficult of access rock crag, where he dwelt for years years under the open sky.

Reports about John reached the Czar Peter I (927-969), who wanted to meet with him; but John refused out of humility.

Some monks built a monastery (Rila) with a church in the cave where John had formerly lived, and the monks persuaded John to come oversee them. He wisely tended his flock and died on 18 August 946 at 70 years of life.

Five years before his end, he wrote "A Testament to Disciples," one of the finest creations of Old-Bulgarian literature.

The holy life of John and the remarkable mercies of God through his prayers witnessed to the Christian faith in the newly Christianized Bulgaria.

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Czar Peter I






Rila Monastery


Bulgarian Orthodox Church

River Struma -- 216 mi (348 km) long, rising in the mountains of west Bulgaria and flowing south through northeast Greece, to the Aegean Sea.

Old Bulgarian

The Monk Christopher was born near Trabzon. He was the head of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary (Sumela Monastery) in the second half of the 7th Century (641-668).

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Sumela Monastery

 w-annotations and links by E. Barsabe