On the first Sunday after Theophany (January 7-13), we celebrate the memory of the Virgin Martyrs Neollina, Domnina and Parthena (Νεολλίνα, Δομνίνα, Παρθένα) of Edessa in the Holy Metropolis of Edessa and Pella.
Nothing is known about Saints Neollina and Domnina, but only about Saint Parthena. The Holy Virgin Martyr Parthena came from Edessa in Macedonia and was born in the 14th century. Her life was in accord with her virginal name, for she lived ascetically, and with the utmost modesty.
In the year 1375 Edessa was besieged by the Turks, and the residents put up a strong defense, aided and encouraged by Hieromonk Seraphim, the rector of the cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos. The enemy was perfectly organized and numerous, but it as it happened, they were preparing to end the siege.
At the last minute, Peter, one of the city's priests, who was Parthena's father, was paid a large sum of money by the Turkish Pasha, and so he betrayed the city.
The Turks invaded Edessa on December 26, 1375 from the southeast, where he was on guard, and where one of the major battles for the city took place. Afterward, its citizens were massacred or sold into slavery; homes were looted, and women were raped. Hieromonk Seraphim was arrested and subjected to severe torments, and then he was drowned in the great waterfall called "Itseri Pasha" (the Pasha's water).
The traitor Peter, after his heinous act which led to the fall of the city, denied Christ and became a Muslim. As if that were not enough, he also gave his daughter Parthena to the Pasha as a concubine, because he was unable to persuade her to deny Christ. After hearing her father's words, Saint Parthena, like another Saint Barbara, shuddered, and with spiritual courage she told her wretched father that she would never deny the sweetest name of her heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Instead of being put to shame and moved to repentance, he became angry and behaved like a wild beast. He beat the Saint until she was bloody and unconscious. Then he stripped her and handed her over to the Turks. The soldiers tortured her for three days. In the end, she was led up a hillside, where she was buried alive. To this day, the hill is called Parthena's Hill.
As shocking as the father's conduct may seem, the Savior predicted that such atrocities would take place: "Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by everyone for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:21-22).
Through the prayers of the Holy Virgin Martyr Parthena, may the Lord strengthen us to persevere until the end of our earthly lives, and make us worthy of a small corner of Paradise.