Venerable Mother Paraskeva – St. Petka

H/T: Mystagogy (here)

Saint 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 Euthymius 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 Paraskeva 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 Saviour 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. Paraskeva obeyed, and returned to Epivato in the village of Katikratia where she lived for two years in ceaseless fasting and prayer.

St. Paraskeva 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. Paraskeva. 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. Paraskeva 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. Paraskeva 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. Paraskeva’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 Paraskeva’s relics were moved to Trnovo, Bulgaria in 1238 and placed in the cathedral. Patriarch Euthymius 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 Parthenius the Old of Constantinople (1639-1644) and of the Moldavian Prince Vasily Voevod, the Patriarchate of Constantinople found itself in great financial need. The Patriarch arranged with Prince Basil to give him the relics of St. Paraskeva 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. Paraskeva’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 Paraskeva, 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.

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