Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Saint Paraskevi, A Bedrock of Virtue (Homily by Metr. Augustounos Kantiotis)

St. Paraskevi was not an ordinary woman. She was a spiritual meteor, a bedrock of virtue, unshakable amid the ocean of corrupt society.

She implemented that which Christ said, that: “He who hears my words and keeps them resembles a house built upon the rock, and though the rains came and the winds and the rivers fell upon it, the house was not shaken” (Matt. 7:24-25.) And St. Paraskevi was a bedrock of virtue. Foamy waves fell upon her, the biggest waves of life.

First, the wave of corruption fell upon her. She was not born in a small village. She was born in the most corrupted city, which in the Holy Scriptures is called the Babylon of the world due to its corruption (Rev. 17:5). She was born in Rome, a suburb of Rome. However, she remained uplifted. She was a lily among the dung of society.

Let us all hearken to this, for when we see some woman being led astray, we say: “Society is responsible.” Yes, society is responsible, I don't deny this. But she herself is also responsible. Give me a woman who loves Christ like St. Paraskevi, and throw her into the most corrupted society, and no wave and no devil could shake her.

As soon as one wave left, a stronger wave fell upon her: the wave of orphanhood. This wave is terrible. St. Paraskevi was orphaned of her father and her mother. Because of this she is a protector of orphans. She was orphaned at that age when children could become prey to unscrupulous traffickers who try to exploit them. But she stood tall even while an orphan. She had within her a great fervor for holiness, the life of virginity and grandeur.

Woe to the woman who does not have these great desires. No matter how high she climbs, no matter how many qualifications she has, she is deplorable. It is better to be an unlettered villager, who are like a lily, like the flowers that grow in the crags of the rocks of our homeland.

Therefore, the waves of corruption and orphanhood fell upon her, but she remained untouched. Because of this I call her a rock. Furthermore, another rock fell upon her: that of money, of wealth. After the death of her pious parents, she remained the sole inheritor of their vast property, which they left to her.

Every other girl would think differently. One might buy silk clothes, one might go to dances and gatherings, one might run right and left, would go on trips, would experience the spirit of the sinful life. St. Paraskevi however did the opposite.

Money is a great temptation. It is better to be a blessed poor person. Thrice-blessed are little huts, more than great homes. Because in huts dwell diamonds, while in the palaces and the large homes dwell many times prideful souls, who do not love Christ.

Money fell into the hands of St. Paraskevi. But she did what St. Anthony did, who had also inherited vast property. He went into church one day. His ear hearkened to the Priest who was reading the Gospel: “Sell your goods and give them to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). Sell everything and give them to the poor. Anthony heard this. And he did not say that Christ was saying this to others. He distributed his property to the poor. As he hearkened to the words of Christ, so did St. Paraskevi. She kept only a small amount, and with this she founded a small sisterhood of orphan women virgins, who were dedicated to preaching, to enlightenment and to philanthropy.

So many foamy waves fell upon St. Paraskevi. Finally, the red wave of blood fell upon her! It was a time when only one would be heard to be a Christian, and one would be put in prison. They seized her at that hour when she had gathered the girls together to teach them. They led her before the judge. They asked her: “Are you a Christian?” She responded: “I boast that I am a Christian.” “We give you,” they said, “three days time to deny Christ.” “No,” the Saint responded, “I don't need time to decide. From this instant I have dedicated to sacrifice my life for Christ. Do whatever you wish.”

And her martyrdom began. They threw her in a dungeon of the prison. They whipped her with bullwhips. They threw her to the wild beasts. They threw her into a cauldron with burning tar and oil. She endured many forms of martyrdom, but all of these she conquered through the power of Christ.

At the end, her hour came. They took her to a temple of the idols with statues of the false gods. She knelt, closed her eyes and made a mystical prayer to God. Immediately, there was an earthquake. The statues fell to the earth and became dust.

They couldn't stand it anymore. Thousands of barbarous hands of the idolaters seized her, and took her outside and to the place of execution. Her face was shining like the sun. She knelt, prayed and thanked God. Finally, she was beheaded by a Roman soldier. And while her honorable head fell down, and her blood watered the earth, her soul, white as a dove, flew to the heavens.

Since then, how many years have passed! But as long as the world will exist, the name of St. Paraskevi will remain unto eternity. For: “The memory of the righteous is unto eternity” (Ps 111:6).

My brethren, St. Paraskevi is an example for all of us. But foremost, she is an example of a virtuous life and faith for women and young people. In this age of great corruption, she is the example and the mirror of virtue for womanhood.

We live in a time of Babylon, a time of the Apocalypse, when the devil is roaring. He tries to strike the whole world. But most of all, he rabidly fights to strike and to soil girls and women. He wants not a single girl to remain unsoiled.

He fights with terrible magazines and newspapers. He soiled our girls with terrible brochures, with movies, with TV shows, which are schools of crime and dishonor. He soils them with mixed baths, with terrible photographs, with corrupting dances, with parties. The day will come when you will not find a pure girl. What will we do?

To arms, my brethren, to arms! Not to physical weapons, but to spiritual ones. Fathers, mothers, look towards the honor of your girls.

I'm finished, but rather, I'm not yet finished, because I want to be paid. What payment? Money? I am a monk and I leave that to you. I will not finish my homily unless my soul is satisfied.

Do you want your homes to be blessed and your girls to be secure? Today, the feast of St. Paraskevi, I entreat you all to do three things. First, go straightaway to your home, and look everywhere to find terrible articles and pictures, and gather them to light them with a holy fire to burn them all. Second, I recommend to all of you to go buy the life of St. Paraskevi and an icon of hers to hang in your home, and speak to your children: “My daughter, my child, become like St. Paraskevi.” And the third thing? Having done the first two, light a candle for the wayward women, those who live in filth and dishonor, and say to St. Paraskevi: “St. Paraskevi, you who are a lily of heaven, help these women of Greece, the women of the whole world to return near the Panagia, near to God, near to Greece, so that we might all have the protection of the Holy Trinity,” Whose blessings I pray might be with you all. Amen.

+ Bishop Augoustinos
(Homily delivered in Chaidari, Athens, before 1967)

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