Saint Paraskeva the New was born into a pious family, living during the eleventh century in the village of Epivato, between Silistra and Constantinople. Her older brother Euthymius became a monk, and later he was consecrated as Bishop of Matidia. One day, while attending the divine services, the words of the Lord pierced her heart like an arrow, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” (Mt. 16:24). From that time she began to distribute her clothing to the needy, for which reason she endured much grief from her family.
Upon the death of her parents, the saint was tonsured into monasticism at the age of fifteen. She withdrew to the Jordanian desert where she lived the ascetic life until she reached the age of twenty-five. An angel of the Lord ordered her to return to her homeland, so she stayed at Epivato for two years.
St Paraskeva departed to the Lord at the age of twenty-seven, and was buried near the sea. Because of the many miracles which took place at her grave, her relics were uncovered and found to be incorrupt. They were placed in the church of the Holy Apostles at Epivato, where they remained for about 175 years.
And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
1. And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. Being full of love for us and caring for our salvation, and desiring to stop the mouths of the ungrateful, He overlooks nothing that is His to do, even if there’s no one to pay attention. The Prophet knew this when he said: That Thou might be justified in Thy words and prevail Thou art judged (Ps. 50). So here, too, when they wouldn’t accept the sublime meaning of His words, but said that He had a devil, and attempted to kill Him, He left the Temple and healed a blind man, placating their anger by His absence, and, through the miracle, softening their hardness and cruelty, making them believers in His words. And He performed a sign which was not adventitious, but one which took place then for the first time: Never since the world began has it been heard that someone opened the eyes of a person born blind. Someone may, perhaps, have opened the eyes of a blind person, but not of anyone blind from birth. And that He fully intended to do this when He left the Temple is clear from the following: it was He who saw the blind man, not the blind man who came to Him. And He looked at him so pointedly that His disciples noticed. And they came to question Him, because when they saw Him regarding the man so earnestly, they asked Him, “Who sinned, this man, or his parents?” Wrong question. How could he sin before he was born? And why, if his parents had sinned, would he have been punished? Why, then, did they put this question? Before, when He healed the paralytic, He said, “Look, you’ve been made well, sin no more.” Now they understood this to mean that he was paralyzed through sins and said, “Well, that man was paralyzed because of his sins; but what would you say about this one? Has he sinned? You can’t say that, since he’s been blind from birth. Did his parents sin? You can’t say that either, because a child doesn’t suffer punishment for its father.” Just as, when we see a child that’s been badly treated, we might say, “What can you say? What’s the child done?” It’s not so much a question as bafflement. The same is true of the disciples here: they weren’t asking for information, but rather they were perplexed. What then does Christ say?
One of the acts most significant in its consequences for world history was the Edict of Milan, published 1700 years ago by the Roman Emperor Constantine. A quarter century after its publication, in 337, Emperor Constantine fell seriously ill and died. According to Eusebius, not long before his death he “considered that it was time to cleanse himself of his former sins, for he believed that everything in which he sinned as a mortal will be taken from his soul by the power of the mystical prayers and saving word of Baptism.” In order to receive the sacrament of Baptism Constantine went to the palace in Nicomedia, which was located near the new capital of the New Rome—Constantinople, where the Emperor Diocletian had earlier built his residence. To Nicomedia came the bishops of the outlying cities. Eusebius relates the words spoken by the Emperor to the bishops assembled around his bed: “The much desired and long-awaited time has arrived, for which I have prayed as the time for salvation in God. It is time for us to receive the seal of immortality, and to partake of saving grace. I had thought to do this in the waters of the Jordan, where as an example to us, as it is told, the Savior Himself received Baptism; but God, Who knows what is profitable, has vouchsafed this to me here. Thus, we shall no longer waver, for if it please the Lord of life and death to prolong my existence, if it has once been determined that I be henceforth united to the God’s people as a member of the Church, that I should participate in prayers together with everyone, then through this will I submit myself to these rules of life, according to God’s will.”
The Church calls St Constantine (306-337) “the Equal of the Apostles,” and historians call him “the Great.” He was the son o the Caesar Constantius Chlorus (305-306), who governed the lands of Gaul and Britain. His mother was St Helen, a Christian of humble birth.
At this time the immense Roman Empire was divided into Western and Eastern halves, governed by two independent emperors and their corulers called “Caesars.” Constantius Chlorus was Caesar in the Western Roman Empire. St Constantine was born in 274, possibly at Nish in Serbia. In 294, Constantius divorced Helen in order to further his political ambition by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honor and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”
Saint Basil, Bishop of Zakholmsk, was born of pious parents in the sixteenth century in the Popov district of Herzegovina. At the age of maturity he left his parental home and settled in the Trebinsk monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, and became a monk.
For his virtuous life the saint was elevated to be Bishop of Zakholm and Skenderia. He occupied the bishop’s cathedra in the second half of the sixteenth century, a successor to Bishop Paul and predecessor of Bishop Nicodemus. St Basil was a good pastor of the flock of Christ, and the Lord strengthened his discourse with various miracles. For the sanctifying of soul with the wisdom of holy ascetic fathers, the saint journeyed to Athos. St Basil died peacefully and was buried in the city of Ostrog in Chernogoria on the border with Herzegovina.
The Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. His father was martyred for Christ when George was still a child. His mother, owning lands in Palestine, moved there with her son and raised him in strict piety.
When he became a man, St George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and he came to the notice of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and joined the imperial guard with the rank of comites, or military commander.