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Words of Wisdom

The Loving Testament of Saint John of Rila (vegan), Part 1 of 2

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Saint John of Rila, also known as Saint Ivan Rilski, was the first Bulgarian hermit, who was revered as a saint while still living. Today he is honored as the patron saint of the Bulgarians, and is regarded as one of the most important holy figures in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Born around the year 876, in Shrino, Saint John of Rila, became a priest at the age of 25. He accepted the path of monkhood and secluded himself in isolated areas. It is said that Saint John of Rila performed many miracles in order to help the people. This extraordinary power brought him a lot of fame and numerous followers. Saint John of Rila also had disciples, to whom he lovingly bequeathed a Testament (Zavet) of wisdom. The Testament was a message of moral and spiritual guidance for his successors and the Bulgarian people. Today, we have the chance to contemplate on the first part of the Testament of Saint John of Rila. “First of all, I bequeath to you the obligation to preserve the holy faith immaculate and unaffected by any false teaching, just as we received it from the holy Fathers, without ‘being led away with diverse and strange teachings.’ Hold fast and keep the traditions you have heard and seen from me. Do not deviate either to the right, or to the left, but walk along the royal road. Keep yourselves carefully away from worldly fascinations and always remember why you have come out of the world, and why you have despised it and worldly things.” “Now again, keep yourselves away from the avaricious snake, ‘for the love of money is the root of all evil,’ according to the apostle, who calls it a second idolatry. Because for the hermit wealth consists not in silver and gold, but in perfect poverty, in the denial of his personal will, and in lofty humbleness. I am not telling you this as my commandments, but [I am] recalling for you the commandments of Christ. For He told His holy disciples and through them everybody who had renounced the world: ‘Take no gold, nor silver, nor a bag, nor copper in your belts’ and so on.” “But seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” “As the grace of the Holy Spirit brought you together, so must you endeavor to live with one heart and one mind and one spirit, directing your eyes only towards the eternal reward, which God has prepared for those who have loved Him.”
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