Paraskevi was born in Rome (circa 130 A.D.) during the reign of the pagan
Emperor Adrian. Her parents, Agathon and Politia, were devout Christians even
though at the time, belief in Christ was a crime against the state punishable
by death. Agathon and Politia, who were of nobility, likewise ignored the
disdain of their peers by championing the cause of the down trodden. They were
fervent Christians who prayed earnestly for a child, promising to God that they
would raise the child in a God fearing manner. They were blessed late in life with a daughter, they named
Paraskevi, because she was born on a Friday (Paraskevi in Greek).
their promise to God, Agathon and Politia were vigilant in exposing Paraskevi
to the fullness of Christianity. The task was made considerably easier because
the young girl had a natural penchant for learning. With the help of private
tutors, Paraskevi became an ardent student of both Holy Scriptures and secular
learning. However, the greatest influence in her life, according to her own
testimony, was the Christ-like example of her parents.
Paraskevi developed into a cultured, sensitive and beautiful woman. It wasn’t
long before some of the noblemen began to take notice of her, and to seek her
hand in marriage. Paraskevi always managed, however, to find some excuse to
politely refuse. Because inwardly she was convinced that she was destined for a
more sublime mission in life.
was orphaned of both parents when she was twenty years old. At this point in
her life, that inner feeling, that she was destined for a higher calling, had crystallized
into love and zeal for Christ. Her greatest desire was to become an apostle for
Christ. To achieve her goal, Paraskevi distributed all her inheritance among
the poor of Rome; entered a convent and was tonsured a nun. At the convent,
Paraskevi distinguished herself in humility, love and spiritual fortitude.
she finally became proficient in prayer and sacrifice, the Abbess granted her
leave so that she could fulfill her life’s ambition; to preach the love of God
to all men. This was truly a precarious mission, because the pagan Roman Empire
was extremely hostile toward Christianity. Even the most courageous of
Christians were reluctant to openly admit that they were followers of Christ.
Nevertheless, this did not daunt Paraskevi, nor did it dampen her zeal. As a
matter of fact, she began her preaching mission right in Rome! The fervor of
her kerygma, and the example of her commitment were such an inspiration, that
great multitudes were converted on their very first encounter with the Saint. In
spite of her great fame and legacy, Paraskevi managed to elude the authorities.
Heartened by this, she decided to extend her ministry to Turkey.
was in Turkey where Paraskevi experienced her first encounter with the law. One
day, as she was preaching just beyond present day Istanbul, in the village of
Therapia, the soldiers of Emperor Antonius Pius arrested her. The charge
against the young missionary was that the blasphemous words which she uttered
were the cause of all the ills that had recently befallen the empire.
her trial, the Emperor, infatuated by her beauty, begged Paraskevi to renounce
Christ and worship the idols of Rome. To entice her further, Antonius Pius
offered to take her as his wife, and to give her half of his empire.
Paraskevi’s reply was quick and resolute: “I have made my choice; no amount of
wealth or deprivation can separate me from my love for Christ." Rebuffed
and infuriated, Antonius Pius ordered that Paraskevi be imprisoned and beaten
mercilessly until she died. The soldiers were astounded to discover that no
matter what punishment and torture she received one day, the next morning she
would be as refreshed and carefree as if nothing had happened.
the wrath of the Emperor, the soldiers decided to report this strange phenomenon
to him. Castigating the ineptness of his soldiers, Antonius Pius shouted
another form of execution. This time he ordered the soldiers to take Paraskevi
out to the spot where she was arrested and to prepare a cauldron of boiling
water, tar and oil. He further stated that it would be his pleasure to
personally supervise the scalding of that "blasphemous Paraskevi".
Paraskevi was finally thrown into the boiling cauldron, she reacted as if the
water were delightfully lukewarm. In utter disbelief, Antonius again began
castigating the soldiers. Softly and with a loving smile, Paraskevi reassured
the Emperor that his soldiers had executed his command faithfully. She also
stated, "My Lord and Master wills that I continue His work". Utterly enraged
and oblivious of her words, Antonius yelled, "Sprinkle me with the oil and
tar. I don’t believe what I see!" Obligingly, Paraskevi scooped some of
the boiling mixture in her hands, and splashed it on the Emperor’s face.
squealed with pain and began yelling, "I’m blind! I can’t see!"
Instinctively, he began imploring the Saint to have mercy and pity on him.
"Restore my eyesight, and I shall believe", he begged. "Your God
is surely the true God!" Accepting his latter statement as a confession of
faith, Paraskevi jumped out of the cauldron; rushed to a spring of water that
was nearby, and scooped up fresh cool water onto Antonius’ face, invoked the
name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and sealed his eyes with the sign of
the Precious and Life-saving Cross and the Emperor’s eyesight was restored
miracle had such a profound effect on Antonius that he not only freed
Paraskevi, he ordered that all persecutions against Christians be stopped and
he himself was baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. Thus, Paraskevi
resumed her apostolic mission with greater zeal and faith. The calm, however,
did not last long. Marcus Aurelius, Antonius’ successor, renewed the
persecutions against the Christian Church. Paraskevi was beheaded in Rome on the
26th of July, in the year 180 A.D.
of the preceding text are from “The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the
Orthodox Church” by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, and translated from
the French by Christopher Hookway