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October 14, 2010

Saint Paraskevi the New of Epivato

St. Paraskevi the New of Epivato (Feast Day - October 14)

Saint Paraskevi (also known as Petka or Paraskeva) the New was born into a pious family, living during the eleventh century in the village of Epivato, between Silistra and Constantinople. Her older brother Euthymios became a monk, and later he was consecrated as Bishop of Matidia. One day, while attending the divine services with her mother at the age of ten, the words of the Lord pierced her heart like an arrow, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself" (Mt. 16:24). From that time she began to distribute her clothing to the needy, for which reason she endured much grief from her family.

After the death of her parents Paraskevi went to Constantinople, a city full of churches with many relics and wonder-working icons. There she met some zealous ascetics who instructed her in the spiritual life. She settled at the church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Heraclea Pontica where she spent five years in concentrated prayer and fasting before making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she had long desired to venerate those places where our Savior had lived and walked. She did not return to Constantinople but, yearning to withdraw still further from the world and its distractions, she crossed the River Jordan into the wilderness. There she lived the ascetic life until she reached the age of twenty-five. An angel of the Lord ordered her to return to her homeland, saying: "Leave the wilderness and return to your homeland; it is necessary that you render your body to the earth there, and your soul to the habitation of the Lord." St. Paraskevi obeyed, and returned to Epivato in the village of Katikratia where she lived for two years in ceaseless fasting and prayer.

St. Paraskevi departed to the Lord at the age of twenty-seven, and was buried near the sea. She was given a Christian burial, but as no one knew who she was or where she was from, she was buried in an unmarked grave. It pleased God, however, to reveal the glory of His saint. Years after her repose, the body of a dead sailor washed ashore. It had already begun to decay and give off a horrible stench before a stylite saint nearby detected it and asked the villagers to bury it. They unknowingly dug the grave right over the relics of St. Paraskevi. That night, one of the grave-diggers, a pious man by the name of George, had a dream. He saw a queen seated on a throne, surrounded by a glorious company of soldiers. One of them said to him, "George, why did you disdain the body of St. Paraskevi and bury a stinking corpse with it? Make haste and transfer the body of the Saint to a worthy place, for God desires to glorify His servant on earth." Then St. Paraskevi herself spoke: "George, dig up my relics at once. I can't bear the stench of that corpse." And she told him who she was and that she was originally from Epivato. That same night, a devout woman, Euphemia, had a similar dream.

On being told about these dreams the next morning, the villagers took lighted candles and went to the cemetery, where they dug down and discovered St. Paraskevi's relics, fragrant and incorrupt. The relics were taken to the church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, where, by the prayers of the holy ascetic, many people were healed of various diseases and the blind received their sight. She remained there for about 175 years.

St Paraskevi's relics were moved to Trnovo, Bulgaria in 1238 and placed in the cathedral. Patriarch Euthymios wrote her Life and established the day of her commemoration as October 14. The Turks occupied Bulgaria in 1391, and her relics were given to Mircea the Elder, Prince of the Romanian Land (one of the districts of Romania). In 1393 the relics were given to Princess Angelina of Serbia (July 30), who brought them to Belgrade in the Ružica Church. When Belgrade fell to Ottoman forces in 1521, the relics were translated to Constantinople and placed in the patriarchal cathedral.

In 1641, during the time of Patriarch Parthenios the Elder of Constantinople (1639-1644) and of the Moldavian Prince Voivod Vasily, the Patriarchate of Constantinople found itself in great financial need. The Patriarch arranged with Prince Basil to give him the relics of St. Paraskevi in return for a sum of money. He lowered the holy relics over the fortified wall of Phanar and they were secretly transported to Jassy (Iasi).

On June 13, 1641, her incorrupt relics were transferred to the Monastery of the Three Hierarchs at Jassy in Romania, where many healings took place. On December 26, 1888, after being rescued from a fire, St. Paraskeva's relics were moved again. This time they were placed in the Metropolitan Cathedral at Jassy, where they remain until the present day.

Water from St. Paraskevi's spring in Belgrade has effected many cures for those who with faith call upon her intercession.

A severe drought in 1946-47 affected Moldavia, adding to the misery left by the war. Metropolitan Justinian Marina permitted the first procession featuring the coffin containing the relics of Saint Paraskevi, kept at Iaşi since then. The relics wended their way through the drought-deserted villages of Iaşi, Vaslui, Roman, Bacău, Putna, Neamţ, Baia and Botoşani Counties. The offerings collected on this occasion were distributed, based on Metropolitan Justinian's decisions, to orphans, widows, invalids, school cafeterias, churches under construction, and to monasteries in order to feed the sick, and old or feeble monks.

HYMN OF PRAISE: The Venerable Paraskeva

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"The Lord desires a pure heart":
Thus says the Gospel.
A pure virgin you remained,
And you gave your pure heart to God-
O most wonderful saint,
Saint Paraskeva, our ideal!

The Lord seeks a most pure mind,
Without fancy and without falsehood;
And you presented Him your most pure mind,
Like that of an angel, of the same kind.
O most wonderful saint,
O Saint Paraskeva, hearken to our petitions!

The Lord seeks a pure soul,
As a heavenly shrine;
You perfected such a soul,
And now shine in heaven.
O most wonderful saint,
Paraskeva, help us!

By your prayers, help us
In the misfortunes of life.
Through the clouds of earthly sorrow
Bring us light, like a rainbow-
O chaste virgin, most wonderful,
Holy Mother Paraskeva!

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You are worthy of praise, Paraskevi. You loved the ascetic and hesychast life. You ran with longing to your Bridegroom, Christ. You accepted His good yoke in your tender years, marking yourself with the sign of the Cross. You fought against impure thoughts; through fasting, prayer and the shedding of tears you quenched the burning coal of the passions. Now in the heavenly bridal chamber of Christ, as you stand together with the wise virgins intercede for us who honor your precious memory.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Second Tone
Let us all piously praise all-honorable Paraskevi, the intercessor for the afflicted. She gave up her earthly life, and received eternal incorruption. Therefore, she has been granted the grace to work wonders by the command of God.