Imagine not being able to see the words on your screen. Imagine not being able to see anything. Imagine having that all miraculously change. I’m hoping I won’t have to imagine it.
In the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, there are many people who have been canonized into sainthood for a variety of reasons. These individuals ranged in age from the very young to the very old, male and female, rich and poor. What they had in common was dedication to their faith to the point that they were either able to perform miraculous acts, and/or were persecuted to death for their refusal to waiver from their faith. Agia Paraskevi (ah-YEE-ah pah-rah-skeh-VEE) did both.
The word “agia” (αγια) in Greek means “saint” and “paraskevi” (παρασκεβι) is the Greek word for “Friday”. Agia Paraskevi was born in a village near Rome in the mid-2nd century, when Christianity was still very new and still very unwelcome in the Roman Empire. She was born on a Friday to parents who were devout Christians. The word “paraskevi” also means “preparation” and refers to preparing for the Sabbath which is observed on Saturday each week (the Greek word for Saturday is pronounced SAH-vah-to and means “Sabbath”). To honor their faith, Agia Paraskevi’s parents gave her the name of her birth-day, given it’s religious significance.
Agia Paraskevi learned her faith from her parents, but they passed away when she was only 20. She was left with a sizable fortune, but chose to use her inheritance to help the needy, even providing funds for a monastery-like commune of women who devoted their lives to charitable works. She was apparently quite the desirable woman having a trifecta of money, education, and beauty, but rejected proposals of marriage to pursue a life of furthering the Christian faith and generally being a “do-gooder”.
So what does any of this have to do with being able to see these words, or not? As it turns out, Agia Paraskevi has been credited with miraculously curing blindness and other eye ailments. In fact, her first “patient” was the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. He had been informed of the fact that Agia Paraskevi had been converting people to Christianity and had her arrested and brought to him for trial. Various accounts tell of Antoninus trying to get Agia Paraskevi to renounce her faith by means of flattery, even offering marriage and making her an Empress. Needless to say, she wasn’t persuaded.
Her refusals angered Antoninus and so he ordered for her to be tormented and tortured. At one point she was to be put into a cauldron of boiling oil, but some of the oil splashed into the Emperor’s face, blinding him. He begged for her help, and she healed him of his blindness. In his gratitude, he freed her and she continued on her mission.
Unfortunately, Antoninus’ reprieve wasn’t kept by his successor, Marcus Arelius. Arelius was none-too-kind to Christians and Agia Paraskevi was once again arrested and tortured, yet still did not renounce her faith. Eventually she was ordered to be executed and was beheaded. Her relics (bones of her body) now reside in a few churches in Greece as well as in the United States, and the Orthodox Church celebrates her Feast Day on July 26th each year.
Since her death, there have been many reports of people being miraculously cured of eye ailments, even up to modern times. For my family, this is especially meaningful. The medium boy had an injury to one of his eyes a few years ago that recently led to a serious retinal detachment. He has undergone two surgeries already, and will need at least one more. Needless to say, we will welcome any miracles we can get. Our parish priest requested for a bottle of holy water (water that has been blessed) from the church of Agia Paraskevi in New York where some of her relics are kept. He did a blessing with the water on the medium boy’s eye. Already his healing is progressing, but only time will tell the final outcome.
In the meantime, I continue to have faith, both in his doctor’s abilities, as well as in the blessings of a truly courageous and generous woman. A woman who was not afraid to declare her faith, to stand up for what she believed in, to do what was right, even though doing so put her in so much peril.