My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ON JULY 26TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST-DAY OF THE HOLY AND GLORIOUS VIRGIN-MARTYR SAINT PARASKEVI
The holy and glorious Virgin-Martyr Saint Paraskevi (also Paraskeva) was arrested during the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD) under the penalty of refusing to worship idols and adhering to the state pagan religion. After enduring many tortures, she was eventually released by the emperor, continuing to profess Christ. She was eventually tortured and beheaded by the Roman governor Tarasius in the year 180 AD. The Holy Orthodox Church commemorates her on July 26.
Saint Paraskevi, The Parthenomartyr, (Virgin-Martyr), was born in a village near Rome during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD). Her parents were the pious Christians Agathonikos (Agathon) and Politea. Her parents prayed fervently for a child, and God finally blessed their piety. They gave great honor to Friday, the day of Our Lord's suffering. Being born on this day, her parents name her Paraskevi ("Friday" in Greek, but literally "preparation").
Saint Paraskevi obtained an excellent education from both secular and Scriptural instructors. She was also very knowledgeable in the field of philosophy. Bolstered by her Christian upbringing, she often conversed with other women about Christianity, trying to strengthen their faith in this new religion. Many distinguished families wanted this beautiful, educated and rich woman to marry their sons. Her understanding and kindness made her even more desirable. However having a higher goal in life, Saint Paraskevi rejected any marriage proposals.
When she was 20 years old, both her parents died leaving her as the sole heir to the family fortune. Saint Paraskevi did not use her fortune for herself. Filled with the spirit of Christ and Christian ideals, she sold all her worldly possessions using the money to relieve human suffering. There was a portion retained to a commune like a contemporary monastery. These women prayed and fasted doing charitable works. They preached primarily to Hebrew and idol worshipping women giving them an opportunity to learn about Christian salvation.
She left Rome at the age of 30 and began her holy mission, passing through many cities and villages. Saint Paraskevi's activities occurred during a period that the Jews and Romans persecuted the Christian religion with the greatest intensity. Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD) ruled Rome at this time, and he did not execute Christians without a trial. She was not caught immediately or put to death. Instead, Antoninus protected Christians against the blind mania of the Jewish and Roman inhabitants. Christians could only be brought to trial if another citizen lodged complaint against them. Antoninus however had to repeal this law because of the many disasters which had befallen Rome and which were blamed on the Christians.
Strong in faith, learning, and eloquence, St. Paraskevi spoke persuasively to her fellow Roman citizens, leading them from idolatry to faith in Christ. Eventually, Antoninus heard of Saint Paraskevi's holy mission. Upon her return to Rome, several Jews filed complaints about her and Antoninus summoned her to his palace to question her. Attracted by her beauty and humility he tried with kind words to make her denounce her faith, even promising to marry her and make her an empress. Angered by her refusal he had a steel helmet, lined with nails, compressed on her head with a vice. It has no effect on the Saint and many who witnessed this miracle converted to Christianity. Thrown into prison, Saint Paraskevi asked God to give her the strength to face the terror that awaited her. Antoninus again continued her torture by having her hung by her hair and at the same time burning her hands and arms with torches. The Saint suffered greatly, but had the will not to submit to the pain. Antoninus then prepared a large cauldron of oil and tar, boiled the mixture and had Saint Paraskevi immersed in it. Miraculously she stood in it as if she being refreshed rather than burned. Angered, Antoninus thought that she was using witchery to keep the contents cooled. Antoninus then approached the cauldron only to be blinded by the hot steam and searing emissions coming from the area. At this moment the mighty emperor asked for the intervention of Saint Paraskevi to heal him from this affliction to which she responded:
"Emperor, the Christian God is healing you from the blindness that was given to you as a punishment".
Immediately, he regained his sight. Humbled by the miracle he freed the Saint, allowing her to continue her missionary activity and ended all persecutions against the Christians throughout the Roman Empire.
From this episode it is clear to the Christians that Saint Paraskevi has the intercessional ability to help people with visual ailments.
However, this period was brief. After Antoninus' death in 161 AD, a plague broke out throughout the empire. Romans took it as a sign from their pagan gods that they were angered by the tolerance of Christianity. Under Antoninus' successor, Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), the laws dealing with "non-believers" were changed and the persecutions against the Christians resumed.
Despite these dangers, Saint Paraskevi persevered in her missionary endeavors, spreading the Gospel wherever she traveled. By authority of emperor Aurelius the provincial eparchs Asclepius and Tarasios captured Saint Paraskevi. Having refused Asclepius' demands to sacrifice to pagan gods, she was thrown into a snake pit. The Saint made the Sign of the Cross over the serpent and the serpent perished. Asclepius had heard of the Saint's previous miracles, realized that a great and mighty power guarded Saint Paraskevi and decided to set her free while Asclepius and his court were all converted.
Tarasios however was less tolerant. Saint Paraskevi was tied and beaten and afterwards imprisoned and a huge rock placed on her chest. She prayed to Christ to help her be strong. The next morning Saint Paraskevi was taken willingly to the Temple of Apollo. Everyone praised Tarasios, thinking that he had succeeded in breaking Saint Paraskevi's faith. However, upon entering the temple, the Saint raised her hand and made the sign of the cross. Suddenly, a loud noise was heard and all the idols in the temple were destroyed. The pagan priests and idolaters dragged her from the altar, beat her, and pushed her out of the temple. The priests demanded that Tarasios kill St. Paraskevi. She was convicted and condemned to death by beheading.
It was customary to give the condemned their last wish. She asked to be left alone for a few moments so that she might pray for the last time. Afterwards, the Roman soldiers returned and executed the Saint.
Many healing miracles occurred as a result of Saint Paraskevi's divine intervention. It is said that that merely coming in contact with the dirt of her grave faithful, crippled could walk, demonized would return to health and that the infertile would bear children. Most importantly Saint Paraskevi healed the blindness of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius while she was in a heated cauldron. Her merciful disposition to her tormentor has made her an intercessor Saint for the healing of eye ailments.
Her remains were eventually taken to Constantinople, where they are venerated by the faithful to this very day.
Apolytikions (Dismissal) Hymn
Appropriate to your calling, O Champion Paraskevi, you worshipped with the readiness your name bears. For an abode you obtained faith, which is your namesake. Wherefore, you pour forth healing and intercede for our souls.
O most majestic One, we have discovered your temple to be a spiritual clinic wherein all the faithful resoundingly honor you, O famed and venerable Martyr Paraskevi.
TOMB IN POUNTA, GREECE
According to the tradition of the people of Epirus, Greece, St. Paraskevi was not martyred in Rome as mentioned in her traditional hagiography, but in Thesprotia where the Monastery of Saint Paraskevi of Pounta stands today. According to this tradition, strongly held by the locals, the headless body of the Saint was entombed here and her tomb is still venerated today.
It is said that the persecutors of Saint Paraskevi dragged her to the edge of the river Acheron to behead her. As the sword was raised over her head, she grabbed a stone pillar that she held so tightly that the print of her hands melted into it leaving an indelible mar. A church was eventually erected here by the faithful in her honor and housed her holy relics. Her skull was eventually placed in the walls of the church, though today it is kept in Moni (Monastery) Petraki in Athens.
According to the author and novelist Spyros Mouselimis, in his article "The Monastery of Pountas and the Feast of Saint Paraskevi" (Ηπειρωτική Εστία, 10, pp. 638-641), Pountas Monastery was known for its healing waters and numerous miracles. The pilgrims would cut off portions of the stone pillar of Saint Paraskevi as a blessing, to the point that in 1960 the size of the stone was half its original size.
The Appearance of Saint Paraskevi
"Today is My Feast"
This event occurred on a recent 26th of July in Koropi, Athens. The family described this event as follows:
In Koropi, there was a married couple where the husband was very religious and the wife was a non-believer and mocker of the faith. The husband had great respect and devoutness for Saint Paraskevi. And always, on the day before we celebrate her memory, he lit a candle at his house. His wife would never light it herself.
So the next day, he got up very early in the morning, washed and dressed up as quietly as he could so he wouldn't disturb his sleeping wife and mother-in-law, locked the door (twice) and left to go to church.
When he got back from church he found the two women very scared and in great panic.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
They told him: "As you left this morning, a little later we heard someone unlocking our door. Two times we heard the sound of the door unlocking..klak, klak...We froze!!! Then a woman entered our house with black clothes, tall, very beautiful, and appeared in front of us, looking at us without saying a word. She then went into the room where the candle was. She goes there, takes the candle into the kitchen, adds oil and lit it. Then she takes the candle and puts it back into the room. She comes back to us, she looks at us and says, "Today is my feast", and she left the house!"
The women were in shock, but he man was touched by this miracle of Saint Paraskevi to his wife, who was a non-believer and mocker of the Faith.
The Miracle at Foufas
In 1932 a pious woman from Foufas named Chrysa Kypti had a son named Tryphon who was blind. She was told that there was a spring of Holy Water nearby, though did not know its origins or the Saint associated with it. Upon receiving some Holy Water from the friend who told her about it, she had her son wash his face with it. When he did, the son received his sight back. That night Chrysa saw Saint Paraskevi in her sleep, who pointed out to her where she was buried and asked her to dig her out. After telling the villagers, they did not believe her. Saint Paraskevi appeared again in her sleep and told her to seek the help of the residents of Milochori. The president of the village responded and helped her dig at the place indicated with other villagers: "Among the brambles where a rose bush is." There they discovered the foundations of an old church, a roofing tile, the icon of Saint Paraskevi and some Roman coins. The finding confirmed the word of Saint Paraskevi that this was an ancient church. Under the order of the bishop of Ptolemaida, a small church had been built Chrysa Kypti stayed next to the church in cells that had been constructed until April of 1959, when she died on Good Friday.
A Contemporary Miracle of Saint Paraskevi Healing An eye Ailment
The following account comes from a woman named Georgia from Corinth, Greece.
From the age of two I suffered from a severe form of being cross-eyed, and according to the doctors who examined me in Athens and Corinth, I had to wear glasses for the rest of my life. It became customary for my parents to bring me every year, on the eve of the feast of Saint Paraskevi, to a small chapel of Saint Paraskevi which is found in Ancient Corinth. It was there, from the age of three, that I would make this small but serious prayer: "My Saint Paraskevi, make my eyes well." I would light my candle and I had much hope in her.
At the age of eight, Saint Paraskevi eventually worked her miracle outside her small chapel. A thought came into my head, like lightning, that urged me to remove my glasses and I was assured that I would not need them again. I removed my glasses and believed that I truly did not have the slightest problem. I could see very well, and I did not have the slightest problem of being cross-eyed. I gave the glasses to my mother and told her I will never wear them again. Initially my parents believed I was displaying child-like enthusiasm, but over the next few days they believed in the truth of the miracle.
Today I am a mature woman with excellent vision. I never ceased to visit that chapel every year to thank Saint Paraskevi for her miraculous intervention, and for hearing my humble child-like prayer. The Saints are always near us. It is enough to invoke them with faith, and they are ready to rush to our aid. (Source: Orthodox Wiki and Mystagogy Resource Center).
DIVINE SERVICES FOR THE FEAST OF SAINT PARASKEVI ON TUESDAY, JULY 26TH:
Place: Holy Dormition of the Theotokos Chapel in New Carlisle.
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God