On October 14, the Romanian Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast day of Saint Paraskeva of Epivata — also known as Saint Paraskeva of Iasi. Saint Paraskeva is a highly honored presence in the living faith of the Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian Orthodox communities. According to Orthodox tradition, Saint Paraskeva lived her earthly life in the first half of the eleventh century; she is known for her commitment and sensitivity to the needs of the poor — particularly orphans and children.
Saint Paraskeva’s penchant toward charity and the poor began not from a philanthropic disposition or humanitarian call, but from an encounter with the transcendent—the beauty and truth evident in the mystery of the Divine Liturgy, and powerfully expressed by the religious architecture and iconography of the church. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the Church of Saint Euphemia and the relics of saints housed there, Saint Paraskeva left her life of relative wealth to live the life of a mendicant, embodying a life of prayer, fasting, asceticism, and performing miracles that are celebrated in communities of faith even today. The miracles of the Saint and her living presence among the faithful for more then one thousand years are a powerful testimony and an invitation to us all to join the call in serving and feeding the poor from wherever we are. The very existence of Saint Paraskeva Orthodox Charity is living proof of the presence of our beloved Saint among us. For ten years, our charity has been steadily extending its mission to North America. Through the Grace of God and by the intercessory prayers of Saint Paraskeva, our charity has been able to attend the needs of over 1,000 children from the most poverty-stricken areas of Romania. Our charitable mission, brothers and sisters in Christ, provides not only the opportunity to learn more about the life and miracles of Saint Paraskeva, but also the opportunity for every one of us to unite our actions and prayers with the Saint for the sake of the needy orphans and children whom this charity is striving to protect. On this wonderful feast of October 14, when thousands of pilgrims are praying in Iasi to the relics of Saint Paraskeva, let us all join our Lord Jesus Christ’s call to us to remain vigilant inour surroundings, and pay particular attention to those in need.
Let us remember how Jesus feed the five thousand hungry people in the crowd through a little boy — a character in the Scripture who one might, at first, consider minor and seemingly insignificant.. Yet this bible story teaches us so much. It is teaching us that every single one of us in the crowd can have a role that matters, regardless of how insignificant we think we are. The little basket that the boy carried with a little bit of seafood and bread, had been chosen by God to be a significant piece of the Messiah’s redemptive plan not only for that day, but for the rest of human history. That means that we’re never just lost in the crowd. We’re never without anything to offer. It also means that we will never know which little person God will use, and how. We never know who the Lord will claim and use in ways that we can’t predict. And yet, we never know how the Lord will redeem our little bits and pieces and use them to give grace to the hungry.
Let us all join our prayers of the heart with the prayers of Saint Paraskeva and embroider ourselves with almsgiving actions in font of our Lord. Through this giving we keep ourselves alive and we move closer to our own redemption by the grace of God. In the process, Our Lord will transform the little fragments of our lives that we’re carrying around, even the pieces that we tend to think aren’t worth much.
With utmost gratitude for your generosity, I remain your servant in Christ.
Mariana Cuceu, MD, MPH