On the 26th of July we celebrate the memory of St Paraskevi the Virgin Martyr
St Paraskevi was born in Rome about 140 AD of Greek Christian parents. Her father, Agathon was rich and her mother, Politia, had many attributes, the greatest of which was her charitability. Agathon and Politia had been married for many years but they were childless. They prayed to God to bless them with a child which they would raise in a true Christian atmosphere. Their prayers were answered with the birth of a girl and because she was born on the sixth day of the week, they named her Paraskevi, the Greek word for Friday.
What impressed Paraskevi the most was not her parents' guidance, but the Christian life which they led. Thus, she knew from a young age, the way of life she would one day lead. She spent much of her time in prayer and study of the Holy Scriptures. After the death of her parents, when she was 20 years old, she distributed all of her wealth to the poor and consecrated her virginity to Christ.
St Paraskevi began preaching the pagans bringing many to Christianity. She went out to teach the way of Christ, knowing that death was waiting for her at the end of her journey. It was during this period that the Jews and Romans persecuted the new religion with the greatest intensity.
She left Rome at the age of 30 and began her holy mission, passing through many cities and villages. She was not caught immediately and put to death because Antonius Pius ruled Rome at this time, and he did not execute Christians without a trial.
Eventually, Antonius heard of St. Paraskevi's holy mission. Upon her return to Rome, several Jews filed complaints about her and Antonius summoned her to his palace to question her. Attracted by her beauty and humility he tried with kind words to make her denounce her faith, even promising to marry her and make her an empress. Angered by her refusal he had a steel helmet, which fitted tightly around her head, lined with nails and placed on her head. It had no effect on the Saint and many who witnessed this miracle converted to Christianity. Hearing of this, Antonius had them put to death.
Thrown into prison, Paraskevi asked God to give her the strength to face the terror which awaited her. Antonius again continued the torture by having her hung by her hair and her hands and arms burned with torches. The Saint suffered greatly, but had the will not to submit to the pain. Antonius then prepared a large kettle of oil and tar, boiled the mixture and then had Paraskevi immersed in it. Miraculously she stood as if she were being cooled rather than burned. Angered, Antonius thought that she was using magic to keep the contents cool, but the Saint told him that he could test it. She took some of the boiling liquid and threw it in the Emperor's face. It burned his eyes and blinded him. She stepped out of the kettle and went to Antonius, telling him that only the Christian God could cure him. Immediately, he regained his sight and humbled by the miracle he freed the Saint and ended all persecutions against the Christians throughout the Roman Empire. As long as Antonius was alive she taught without fear, however the Emperor died at which time Marcus Aurelius came to power.
Paraskevi was captured in a city which was ruled by a man called Asclipius. Refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods, she was thrown into a pit with a large snake. The Saint made the sign of the cross and the snake did not harm her. Asclipius, realising that a great and mighty power guarded Paraskevi, she was again set free to teach others about Christianity.
She soon arrived at the city in which she would meet her death. Taracius was the ruler here, and he summoned her to the palace for trial. As Antonius, he also ordered his soldiers to prepare a kettle filled with boiling oil and melted tar and the Saint was placed in it. Once again, nothing happened, and many of the onlookers converted to Christianity. Paraskevi was then tied and beaten and afterwards imprisoned and a huge rock placed on her chest. She prayed to Christ to help her be strong.
The next morning Paraskevi was taken willingly to the Temple of Apollo. Everyone praised Taracius, thinking that he had succeeded in breaking Paraskevi's faith. However, upon entering the temple, the Saint raised her hand and made the sign of the cross. Suddenly, a loud noise was heard and all the idols in the temple were destroyed. The priests and idolaters dragged her from the altar, beat her, and pushed her out of the temple. The priests demanded that Taracius kill Paraskevi. She was convicted and condemned to death.
When the Saint was taken out of the city to be beheaded, she asked to be left alone for a few moments so that she might pray for the last time. Afterwards, the soldiers returned and executed the Saint.
Through the prayers of the holy and glorious Virgin Martyr Paraskevi, O' Christ our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen
St. Paraskevi is considered to be a healer of the blind, because of the miracle she performed in restoring the sight of Antonius Pius.
Appropriate to your calling, O Champion Paraskevi, you worshipped with the readiness your name bears. For an abode you obtained faith, which is your namesake. Wherefore, you pour forth healing and intercede for our souls.
Plagal of the Fourth Tone
O most majestic One, we have discovered your temple to be a spiritual clinic wherein all the faithful resoundingly honor you, O famed and venerable martyr Paraskevi.