Saint Parascheva – The one who gave her heart to the Lord

The first iconographic representation of Saint Parascheva, Arbore, c. 1541

Saint Parascheva was born around 920-930 in the city of Epivates in the Byzantine Empire, the modern Turkish city of Selimpașa. Her name, Paraskevi in Greek, or Petka in Serbian, refers to the fifth day of the week, Friday. In Moldavia, she is also goes by the name of “Saint Friday”. Her parents were good and faithful, teaching their children from an early age to please the Lord. The brother of Saint Parascheva is also a Saint. In the Great Greek Synaxis, there is an entry on May 5 for St. Euthymius the miracle-worker, Bishop of Madytos, who died sometime between 989-996. It is said that he was “the brother of Saint Parascheva, who is commemorated on October 14.”

The desire for spiritual life was sown in the heart of Saint Parascheva at the age of ten, when being in a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, she heard the word of the Gospel: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Thus, she gave her clothes to the needy several times without being troubled by the reprimands of her parents. Later, after her parents died, she and her brother inherited a great fortune, which they imparted to those in need. She then headed to Constantinople, where she was sweetened with the teachings of the nuns and monks with a rich spiritual life. She then left for the land of Pontus, living for 5 years in the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Heraclea. After these 5 years, she directed her steps in the Savior’s footprints, in Jerusalem. There, she stayed in a convent in the wilderness of the Jordan. But one night, she received words from an angel: “Leave this wilderness and return to your homeland, because there it is proper for you to give your body to the earth, to pass from this world, and to go to God, Whom you loved”. Thus, she went to the Church of the Virgin of Blachernae and prayed to her icon to receive strength. The saint returned to Epivates and lived without anyone recognizing her. Thus, being a total stranger, her earthly life reached its end.

When God willed to glorify her honorable relics, He sent a vision to some pious people, George and Euthymia, who went to the place where the relics were buried. Accompanied by priests and other believers, they took the relics and placed them in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Epivates. After this, many miracles and healings occurred there.

The relics of Saint Parscheva witnessed a long journey. Around 1231, they were relocated from Epivates to Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, of Tsar John Asen II. Because of this, the life of the saint and her service were translated from Greek to Slavonic. From the moment her relics were brought to Tarnovo, the cult of Saint Parascheva has spread throughout the Bulgarian empire. Her miracles made her known throughout the Balkan peninsula.

In the year 1393, after the conquest of the Tarnovo by the Turks, the relics were relocated for a short period of three years in Vidin, then to Belgrade, where they stayed until the fortress was conquered in 1521, after which they were taken to Constantinople in the Cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1641, the ruler Vasile Lupu of Moldavia paid the debts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Sultan and received a gift of a great price, the relics of Saint Parascheva. They were brought to Iași, Romania, and placed in the Monastery of the Holy Three Hierarchs, recently founded by the voivode, and remained there for more than 350 years. In 1889, they were transferred to the Cathedral next-door, founded by Metropolitan Joseph Naniescu, where they remain to this day.

Ever since the holy relics arrived on the Moldavian soil, they began to do countless miracles. In his “Advice and memories”, written in 1642, the Greek priest Synadinos of Serres describes the bringing of the relics of Saint Parascheva of Iași and adds: “That day there was a great holiday… many alms were granted to the poor… and the sick affected by different diseases were healed and God was glorified for the intercessions of the Saint.”

Saint Parascheva also spent time in Bucharest. Because of the Soviet offensive in the spring of 1944, on April 11, the Saint’s relics were evacuated to Ciorogârla Monastery near Bucharest. Before returning to Iași, they were exhibited for veneration in the Patriarchal Cathedral. Historian Petre Năsturel, then a student, remembers the moment when the relics left the capital: “On a beautiful morning, the procession traversed Bucharest under the eyes of the inhabitants; some standing, some kneeling, all making the cross or bowing, bowing to the protector of the country. The reliquary was placed in an army truck. An escort of soldiers, bayonets drawn, surrounded the vehicle. The crowd filled the sidewalks.”

In 1947, a great drought gripped all of Eastern Europe. In Moldavia, a procession with the relics of the Saint was held, but at some point, the wagon carrying the holy relics could no longer be moved. No one understood what was happening. But, looking ahead, they noticed that another procession was slowly approaching with the icon of the Mother of God from Secu Monastery. In this way, the piety of the saint towards the Mother of God was revealed, as she did not want her relics to pass before the icon of the Mother of God.

The countless miracles that have taken place since the glorification of the venerable Saint Parascheva until today testify that the Lord Jesus Christ cannot “refuse” her prayers. This is because she answered the Lord’s prayer, “Give Me, daughter, your heart!” (cf. Proverbs of Solomon 23.26).