Martyrs Florus and Laurus of Illyria (2nd c.)
“Brothers in both the flesh and the spirit, they were both zealous Christians, and stonemasons by craft. They lived in Illyria. Some pagan prince set them to build a pagan temple. It happened during the course of their work that a fragment of stone splintered off and flew into the eye of the pagan priest’s son, who was watching the building work with curiosity. Seeing his son blinded and bleeding, the priest shouted at Florus and Laurus and tried to thrash them. Then the holy brothers told him that, if he would believe in the God in whom they believed, his son would be restored to health. The priest promised. Florus and Laurus prayed to the one, living Lord with tears and made the sign of the Cross over the child’s stricken eye. The child was healed instantly and his eye became whole as it had been before. Then the priest, Merentius, and his son were baptised, and they both very soon suffered for Christ in the flames. But Florus and Laurus, when they had finished the temple, put a Cross on it, called together all the Christians, and consecrated it in the name of the Lord Jesus with an all-night vigil of hymns. Hearing of this, the governor of Illyria burned many of these Christians by fire and had Florus and Laurus thrown alive into a well, which was then filled with earth. Their relics were later discovered and taken to Constantinople. These two wonderful brothers suffered for Christ, and were glorified by Him, in the second century.” (Prologue)
Our Holy Father John, Abbot of Rila (946)
He was born near Sophia in Bulgaria during the reign of the Emperor Boris. When his parents died he withdrew from the world to a cave high in the mountains, where he gave himself to the ascetical struggle. There the Prologue says that he ‘endured many assaults both by demons and men, from robbers and from his kinsmen.’ In time he moved to the mountain of Rila, where he lived in a hollow tree, eating only the wild herbs and fruits there. On Rila he saw no human being for many years, but was eventually discovered by a shepherd, after which his fame spread quickly: many came to him for counsel and for the healing of diseases, and Peter, King of Bulgaria, visited him for advice. Many people seeking their salvation settled near him, and soon a church and monastery developed around him. St John reposed in 946 and appeared to his disciples after his death. His relics are venerated at the monastery of Rila, which has for centuries been a lighthouse of Orthodox spirituality in Bulgaria.