Pilgrimage to Rila Monastery and Sofia

In the spirit of the Christmas joy of the coming and incarnation of the Son of God on Earth, which is a spirit of love, peace, and unity, this weekend, by the blessing of the most respected elder and abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, Bishop Antaniski Mr. Partenij, the choir for Eastern Church and traditional singing at the church of Saints Peter and Paul in Kichevo visited the Holy Rila Monastery, dedicated to the great ascetic and miracle-worker of the IX-X century, Venerable John of Rila.

The group was warmly received and hosted by hierodeacon Father Nectarius, who also served as their guide in acquainting with the contents and spiritual wealth of this great and significant Christian Sanctuary. We had the opportunity to visit the museum of the Rila Holy Monastery, to sing at the Vespers service, and to venerate the miraculous relics of the great Christ’s favorite, Saint John of Rila the Wonderworker. The next day, we also took prayerful participation in the holy Divine Liturgy, served in the monastery’s chapel dedicated to the Nativity of Christ. The Liturgy was officiated by the abbot and elder of the Holy Rila Monastery, the respected Bishop Adrianopolis Mr. Evlogij, in concelebration with clergy from the Monastery, and our choir participated in the Liturgy’s chant, led by the protopsalt Dimitar Ugrinoski.

At the end of the service, the Rila abbot and bishop, Mr. Evlogij, addressed the guests with a warm appropriate speech, emphasizing that we should always thank God for the love and all the gifts He gives us, and that for their brotherhood, it is a special joy to receive a pilgrimage of this kind, consisting of so many young God-loving individuals.

After leaving the Rila Monastery, from where we carried the most exalted feelings of joy, love, and gratitude, the choir also visited the capital of the Bulgarian state, the city of Sofia. There, in the amphitheater of the Sofia Holy Metropolis, we were warmly welcomed and received by the highly respected Bishop Belogradchik Mr. Polikarp, the vicar bishop of the Bulgarian Patriarch. His Grace warmly welcomed everyone and greeted the choir on behalf of His Holiness, Patriarch Mr. Neofit. Father Polikarp blessed the young choristers and asked them to convey his respect and gratitude to their spiritual father, Bishop Mr. Partenij, as well as to all the monks and nuns under his spiritual guidance. Upon departure, each member of our choir received a gift from Bishop Polikarp, as a blessing from Patriarch Neofit.

In Sofia, the group also visited the metropolitan cathedral “Saint Sunday,” the oldest temple in Sofia “Saint George – Rotunda,” the Russian church “Saint Nicholas,” where they venerated the tomb of Saint Seraphim Sobolev, and the magnificent patriarchal cathedral dedicated to “Saint Alexander Nevsky.”

On behalf of all members of the choir, we express our deepest gratitude, first and foremost to the Bigorski elder and abbot, His Grace Mr. Partenij, for the blessing and support for the realization of this pilgrimage journey, and then to our dear and hospitable hosts: the abbot of the Rila Monastery, His Grace Mr. Evlogij, hierodeacon Nectarius, and His Grace Bishop of Belogradchik Mr. Polikarp.

Written by: Filip Tintoski, graduate theologian and member of the choir