Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 14 - Petca Parasceva, Friend of the Poor, Stranger in a Strange Land


Petca knew she was in trouble for what she had done but she couldn't even force herself to regret what she did. Her parents were very upset with her and she didn't want them to be upset, because she loved them, but she didn't see how she had any other option. After all, she had fallen under the conviction of her Lord and Savior Jesus. While attending worship with her parents and her older brother, Petca had suddenly been struck--like an arrow to her chest--with the reality of God's calling in her life. Her ears rang with the pronouncement, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me." It was like she was hearing these familiar words for the first time. Something within Petca vibrated to the note that was sounded by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of a preacher.In short, she had found something worth living and dying for and she wasn't willing to give it up for anything. So, Petca took up her cross as best she knew how and followed after a Lord with whom she was falling in love.

So, it had seemed like the most natural thing to do when Petca began to give away her clothing to the poor. Her parents, wealthy and influential people that they were, had given her much fine clothing and had made it clear with their gifts that she was very special to them. Petca gave these items away so that the hungry and the poor might wear them or sell them and buy food. Her parents were shocked at first but their shock turned to displeasure when they discovered that Petca had given away a particularly fine dress to a poor woman in exchange for her filthy rags. They felt scandalized, as if the radical generosity of their daughter reflected poorly on their ability to raise children. "After all," perhaps they reasoned, "people will think we didn't teach her common sense and how the world really works." Petca's parents had taught her these things but Petca had learned a message more true and a Gospel more powerful. When her parents forbade her from repeating her generosity, Petca insisted that refusing wasn't a choice that she was allowed by their Lord Jesus. So, at the age of fifteen, Petca left and sought out the immersed and prayer-structured life of a monastic.

Petca went first to Constantinople and found teachers there who showed her a path to God's blessed presence. Petca spent five years devoting herself to prayer and fasting for the purpose of preparing her for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Though, her parents searched for her for some time but were never able to find Petca and take her back home. In Jerusalem, Petca lived among those who had taken vows of service to God for some time. But, eventually she felt called to cross the Jordan river and go into the wilderness to find where God waited for her there. After years spent in prayer in the wilderness, she had a vision where an angel instructed her, "Leave the wilderness and return to your native land, for there you are to leave your body on the earth and ascend with your soul to the Lord." She returned to Serbia as a stranger that nobody recalled. She died shortly thereafter while whispering her prayers and rejoicing at the thought of resting in God's presence. She had carried her cross for quite a while but laid it down at the feet of her God to take one last step into the arms of her Lord.

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