July 27, 2009

The Grotto-Shrine of Saint Paraskevi in Greenlawn, New York


Since the day of the healing of the Emperor’s eyes, the spring at Therapia in Turkey, has been commonly known as the "Spring of St. Paraskevi". Subsequently, it was discovered that this water had been blessed with miraculous healing powers, especially in reference to eye disorders. For this reason, the Orthodox Church proclaimed this spring a Shrine of the Miraculous Healing Holy Water of St. Paraskevi, and the Saint herself, the "patron saint of the blind". In due time the faithful of the area erected a stone grotto over the Holy Spring. This grotto and Spring still exist today as a silent, but clear manifestation of the love and mercy of God. Even more humbling and sobering is the record of literally tens of thousands of healings that have occurred over the years.

The memory and presence of St. Paraskevi is very much alive on Eastern Long Island. Both our parish in Greenlawn, New York and the underground Grotto-Shrine, which is adjacent to the church, are dedicated to her memory. This constitutes a unique distinction because our Church and Shrine are the only Greek Orthodox houses of worship in the Americas that bear her name. Furthermore, our Grotto-Shrine is the only Greek Orthodox Shrine of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The erection of the Grotto-Shrine in our parish is the result of a life-long love and devotion to St. Paraskevi by the Yakovou Family. John, the son, being nurtured in piety and devotion to St. Paraskevi by his mother, Anastasia, and being blessed with the material means, decided to share the joy and depth of his spiritual experience with the community at large. This overflow of the heart and soul was translated into a visible reality with the construction of the Grotto-Shrine in the year 1969. On July 26, 1969. Archbishop Iakovos, personally brought a vial of Holy Water from the Shrine at Therapia, and consecrated the waters of our Grotto-Shrine by mixing the two.

Since then, thousands of pilgrims have visited the Shrine and have experienced the humbling privilege and joy of being in it. The stark simplicity of the interior, and the soft trickle of the water flowing from the mouth of the fountain create an atmosphere of serenity and purity. The inscription over the entrance, "Dedicated to my mother, Anastasia, who taught me to see", captures and conveys the mystique of the Grotto-Shrine. "Vision and sight", according to John Yakovou, "do not refer exclusively to physical blindness, but to the ability to see truth and to face it courageously." While most pilgrims are granted only this mystical experience, many have atso been granted the gift of physical vision. Hardly a week passes that some miraculous healing isn’t reported. There is no logical explanation, special pattern, unique procedure or formula, the healings occur at the will of God. Truly, "He works in strange and wondrous ways"; most often above our level of comprehension, but always with a definite purpose and goal. For example, it is highly significant that the healing of the Emperor would take place at Therapia, which is the Greek word for therapy.

The message was loud and clear. Likewise, it was not merely coincidence that John Yakovou and the late Theodore Synod is proposed, almost three years before the erection of the Grotto-Shrine, the name Shrine Place as the most appropriate name for the street in front of our church. One pilgrim who received both the mystical experience and the physical vision was Cecile Lessner of Bethpage, Long Island. In May of 1973, Cecile, who is Jewish, was cured of an unchecked growth of cells in one of her retinas. She visited the Grotto-Shrine, took Holy Water, and rubbed her eyes daily for two weeks with the Holy Water. When she was admitted for surgery at the Nassau County Medical Center, her doctors were astounded to discover that the disorder had disappeared completely.

On another occasion a member of the parish mailed a bottle of Holy Water to her mother in Greece, who was afflicted with cataracts. The mother’s eyesight was restored immediately after she anointed her eyes.

An even more dramatic healing occurred on September 14, 1975, to an elderly woman of the parish. This woman, who wished to remain anonymous, had been legally blind in the left eye for fifteen years as a result of a blood clot that burst. On the weekend of September 14th, she felt another clot forming in her eye. At the suggestion of her doctor, she began applying cold compresses to her eye. Shortly thereafter, a lady friend from the parish visited her, and suggested that she add Holy Water to the cold compresses. After a few applications, she felt intense heat emanating from her eye. Simultaneously the redness of the eye was disappearing. The next thing she realized was that she could see from that so called "legally blind" eye.

Mary Costides of Astoria, New York, was scheduled for a cornea transplant. She too visited our Grotto-Shrine; prayed; took Holy Water, and rubbed her eyes with it daily for ten days. When she returned to the doctor in March of this year for further tests, he told her that, "at least for now, you have no need for an operation."

These are just a few of the miraculous healings we have witnessed. There have been numerous healings involving glaucoma, cataracts, detached retinas, and a whole host of other eye disorders. Other maladies such as bone marrow disease, skin cancer, lung cancer, and nervous disorders have also been cured. Pilgrims have come from far and near to venerate the Holy Icon and Holy Relics of St. Paraskevi and to partake of the Holy Water. Likewise, requests for Holy Water have come from throughout the United States, from both Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

The Shrine is open daily, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On the first Friday of every month a Paraklesis is chanted and names are read (times alternate every month: one month 11:00 a.m. and the next month 7:00 p.m.). Once a month a Divine Liturgy is celebrated. All visitors are welcome to participate in the services and to partake of the Holy Water and the blessings of Saint Paraskevi. The Church Calendar is here.

To send prayer requests, light a candle, buy an icon or receive some Holy Water from this miraculous shrine, you can write or email to the addresses below or visit here. For information on setting up a pilgrimage to this shrine to venerate the relics of St. Paraskevi and St. Panteleimon, see here.

It should be noted that they also have a shrine dedicated to St. Panteleimon (celebrated July 27), and this information is here. St. Paraskevi shrine information is here.

Saint Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church
Shrine Place
Greenlawn, NY 11740
voice: (631) 261-7272
fax: (631) 261-7295

E-mail: shrine@stparaskevi.org