October 21, 2011

Saint Paraskevi the New and Her Feast Day in Romania

Saint Paraskevi was born in the village Epivato in Eastern Thrace, at the beginning of the 11th century, to a pious family. Then, by the age of 15, she dedicated herself to the monastic life.

Saint Paraskevi’s relics were brought to Iasi in 1641, during the reign of the ruler Vasile Lupu, and they were exposed in the Church of the Three Hierarchs.

Saint Paraskevi is considered the Protector of Moldavia and Bucovina, being the most popular of all the Saints whose relics are in Romania. Christians believe her relics to be miraculous.

Saint Paraskevi’s feast day, and at the same time the feast of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Iasi, has become, these last 15 years, an important Christian manifestation for the region of Moldavia. On this occasion there arrive in Iasi, in pilgrimage, about one million pilgrims, most of them waiting for hours in a line which covers 2-3 kilometers in order to reach the relics of the Saint and pray.

Generally, on the 13th of October the holy relics are brought out of the church and they are exposed on the esplanade of the Metropolitan Cathedral. Then, on the 14th of October, the feast day, a procession takes place on the streets nearby.

During the last few years, besides the relics of Saint Paraskevi, there have also been brought here the relics of other important Saints such as: Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Nektarios of Aegina and those of Saint Andrew the First-Called. In 2011 the arm of St. Polycarp of Smyrna was brought from Nafpaktos.

After the procession, the reliquary is exposed again in the courtyard of the Metropolitan Cathedral in order to allow the pilgrims to pray.

Also, after the Festal Divine Liturgy, the City Hall of Iasi organizes a lunch for the pilgrims, where they serve traditional meals.

The Life of Saint Paraskevi the New

St. Paraskevi was born at the beginning of the 11th century into a wealthy, noble, and pious Christian family in the town of Epivato (now in Turkey) on the shores of the Marmara Sea. At the age of ten, while attending the Liturgy in the Church of the Holy Theotokos, she heard the words, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” The words of the Lord had a profound effect on the young girl, and they became the subject of her meditations.

The future St. Paraskevi began to dress poor people in her expensive clothes – her good deeds later earning her recognition as a patron saint of such trades as spinning, sewing, weaving, and knitting – but her parents objected, finding the girl’s charity more than they could understand or support, and tried to get her to stop. To follow her calling, Paraskevi abandoned her wealth and privileges, left her parents, and ran away to Constantinople. There, near relics of saints, she spent her time in prayer, meditating on the words of Christ.

To elude her parents, who were traveling from city to city trying to find her, she moved to Chalcedon, and then to the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos, in Heraclea Pontica, near the Black Sea. She spent the next five years there, living an austere life of continuous prayer and devotion. During her prayers she received visions of the Holy Virgin Mary and in one of the visions, she was instructed to go to Jerusalem. After spending some time in the city, she joined a convent in the Jordanian desert. A few years later, she returned to Constantinople and then, at the age of twenty-five, moved to the village of Katikratia where, at the Church of the Holy Apostles, she lived the remaining two years of her life.

Legend has it that many years later an old sinner was buried near her grave. Paraskevi appeared in a dream to a local monk, showed him the place of her burial, and asked him to “take that stinky corpse away from me. I am light and sun, and I cannot bear to have near me darkness and stench.“ The monk, with some local help, began to dig out the place he had seen in his dream and when they found the remains of the Saint, her uncorrupted body was emitting spiritual fragrances. Then they interred the Saint in the Church of the Holy Apostles, where she had spent the last years of her earthly existence.

Later on her relics were moved to Tirnovo, in Bulgaria, then to Belgrade, in Serbia, and finally to Constantinople. In 1641, they were given as a gift to the Prince of Moldavia, Vasile Lupu, in recognition of his support for the Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople. Her intact relics have remained in Iasi ever since. She is venerated as the Protector of Iasi and all of Moldavia and each year, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox faithful and hierarchs from many countries gather in Iasi to celebrate her feast day and venerate her holy relics, which continue to work miracles.

More photos from the feast can be seen here.