11/10/21: Параскева Пятница (Paraskeva Piatnitsa, or Paraskeva Friday)

New neighbor T. would like a little help with a simple sewing alteration. She asked whether I knew someone in our complex with a sewing machine. Sure, we have lots of handy-crafty people here, so I made some inquiries. I was eager to help Neighbor T., introduce her to some other wonderful neighbor, and so set another good stitch seam in our network of residents. But, my inquiries led nowhere. The fruitless search was a disappointment, and was puzzling until I opened a favorite website pravmir.ru and found an article about the saint of the day. Aha! No wonder our sewing effort came to naught on November 10th, today of all days.

This is a picture of an icon of Saint Paraskeva Friday. The icon background says “Saint Paraskeva” on the left, and on the right the title “Great Martyr.” In her hand she is holding a cross, and the Creed written in Church Slavonic: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth…”

The Feast of Saint-Martyr Paraskeva Friday is November 10th. What a great name for a courageous girl hero. There she is fighting for the cause of justice, while her mom calls from the window: “O Paraskeva Friday! Dinner!” Well, Paraskeva Friday really was a genuine girl hero. Here is her tradition, taken mostly from these two articles:

  1. Pravmir.ru, “Почему не Параскева Пятница, или Как святые становятся нам близкими

2. Alla Mekhontseva in Argumenty i Fakty, St. Petersburg, November 9, 2021

https://spb.aif.ru/society/paraskeva_pyatnica_smysl_prazdnika_chto_mozhno_i_nelzya_delat_v_etot_den

Here is an icon of Paraskeva Friday as a beautiful girl looking brave and stern. The scroll in her hand begins with the words “O Lord God…” in Church Slavonic. She is dressed in red as a symbol of martyrdom. The background of the icon is black, representing prison.

This year, the feast day of Paraskeva Friday falls on a Wednesday. But “Paraskeva” is Greek for Friday, to honor the day of the Passion of Our Lord. Legend has it that this saint lived in the 3rd century in Iconium, Asia Minor. Her devout Christian parents spent their Fridays in fasting and prayer and almsgiving. After many childless years, they joyfully greeted the birth of their daughter on a Friday, and named her accordingly. The child was raised as a devout Christian. Orphaned early in life, she kept to her childhood faith and gave away her considerable fortune by feeding and clothing the poor. She was martyred under the Diocletian persecution, adamantly refusing the offers and threats of men in power who demanded that she renounce her heavenly spouse and marry one of them. Even in prison awaiting death, she showed such unearthly radiance that her captors were unnerved by her presence. As a well-born girl of striking beauty, she inspired many people toward the Christian faith through her life of devotion to Jesus Christ, her courage, and her charity to the poor.

This picture shows a Paraskeva depiction on oak wood. She is holding a scroll with the Creed, “I believe in one God…” Honored as the patroness of agricultural fields, she is shown here with woods and fields in the background.

Paraskeva Friday is honored as the patron saint of happy courtship and marriages, healing from illnesses, comfort from frightening dreams, and blessings upon cattle and fields. To this day, in the Russian countryside one can find little roadside chapels known as “Fridays” in fond memory of this saint — prayer point landmarks for friends to meet and to part on their journeys, and for young couples to socialize.

To observe Paraskeva Friday’s feast, everyone was to pay special heed to the commandments, to give alms, to assist the poor, and to refrain from harsh speech — arguments, scandal, and gossip, as well as idle or derisive laughter. As on Fridays year round, this was also a fast day with all-vegan fare. Men had to give the land a rest from agricultural labor, and they could not do any work with iron tools. Women were required to refrain from all womanly household chores. This meant that young girls were not to dress or style or ornament their hair. It also meant a day of no sewing, no knitting, no embroidery, and no washing clothes. (Interesting: canonical icon depictions show Paraskeva as a grave ascetic in red with unbound hair, sometimes with a black background to represent prison. But an image search also turns up many delightful stuffed Paraskeva dolls with flowing hair, beautifully dressed with fine stitching, knitting, and embroidery, and with no facial features — like the dolls one can find among the Amish.) And her icons with their frames show a full range of metalsmithing and tool work as well, probably done on the other 364 days of the year.

This Paraskeva icon has an elaborate metal frame. She is holding a scroll with the opening words of the Creed in Slavonic. In this icon she is not shown with flowing hair; instead, two angels are giving her a crown, possibly a crown of martyrdom.

According to Ms. Mekhontseva’s article, the only feminine craft permitted on this day was a Russian term new to me. According to Google Translate, to “trepat’” means fluttering or rattling, in this case for rendering flax into linen. Now with Paraskeva’s blessing I want to go find out how to rattle flax, to prepare for next November 10th.

But the main way to observe the feast was by visiting church with the congregation, and at home praying with petitions like these:

O saintly blessed Martyr Paraskeva, O beauty of virginity, O wisdom: Send down blessings upon our womanly lot in life. May the chalice run full in this house. May the family be happy and strong. May the ones in love find good sturdy husbands. Amen.

Amen indeed!

About maryangelis

Hello Readers! (= Здравствуйте, Читатели!) The writer lives in the Catholic and Orthodox faiths and the English and Russian languages, working in an archive by day and writing at night. Her walk in the world is normally one human being and one small detail after another. Then she goes home and types about it all until the soup is done.
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