"The Holy Great Martyr Katherine was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandria in Egypt, during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-313). Living in the capital, Katherine received a most splendid education, having studied the works of the finest philosophers and teachers. Young men from the most worthy families of the empire sought the hand of the beautiful Katherine, but none of them was chosen. She declared to her parents that she would only enter into marriage with someone who surpassed her in reputation, wealth, beauty and wisdom.
Katherine's mother, a secret Christian, sent her for advice to her own
spiritual father -- a saintly elder pursuing prayerful deeds in solitude in a
cave not far from the city. Having listened to Katherine, the elder said that
he knew of a youth, who surpassed her in everything, such that "His beauty
was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation,
His riches were spread throughout all the world ". The image of the Christ
produced in the soul of the holy maiden an ardent desire to see Him. In
parting, the elder handed Katherine an icon of the Mother of God with the
God-Child Jesus on Her arm and bid her to pray with faith to Mary to show her a
vision of Her Son.
Katherine prayed all night
and was able to see the Most Holy Virgin who told Her Divine Son to look upon
the kneeling of Katherine before Them. But the Child turned His face away from
her saying that He was not able to look at her because she was ugly, of shabby
lineage, beggarly and mindless like every person -- not washed with the waters
of holy Baptism and not sealed with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Katherine
returned again to the elder deeply saddened. He lovingly received her,
instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity
and integrity and to pray unceasingly; he then performed over her the sacrament
of holy Baptism. And again Saint Katherine had a vision of the Most Holy Mother
of God with Her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a ring
-- a wondrous gift of the Heavenly Bridegroom.
At this time the emperor
Maximian was himself in Alexandria
for a pagan feast day. Because of this, the feast was especially splendid and
crowded. The cries of the sacrificial animals, the smoke and the smell of the
sacrifices, the endless blazing of fires, and the bustling crowds at the arenas
Human victims also were brought -- because they chose to die in the fire rather
than deny Christ under torture. The Saint's love for the Christian martyrs and
her fervent desire to lighten their fate impelled Katherine to go to the
Introducing herself, the
saint confessed her Christian faith and with wisdom denounced the errors of the
pagans. The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor. In order to convince
her and show the superiority of pagan wisdom, the emperor gave orders to gather
50 of the most learned men of the empire, but the Saint got the better of the
wise men, such that they themselves came to believe in Christ. Saint Katherine
shielded them with the sign of the cross, and they bravely accepted death for
Christ and were burnt by order of the emperor.
Maximian, no longer hoping
to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame.
Having received an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders to subject the saint
to terrible tortures and then throw her in prison. The Empress Augusta, who had
heard much about Katherine, wanted to see her. Having succeeded in convincing
the military-commander Porphyry to accompany her with a detachment of soldiers,
Augusta went to the prison. The strong spirit of Saint Katherine, whose face
glowed with Divine grace, impressed the empress. The holy martyr explained the
teachings of the Christians to the people and they believed and were converted
On the following day they
again brought the her to the judgment court where, under the threat of being
tortured on a wheel of spikes and nails, they urged that she recant from the
Christian faith and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The saint steadfastly
confessed Christ and she herself approached the wheel; but an Angel smashed the
sharp tools, which broke up into pieces that hit pagans who were passing
by. Having beheld this wonder, the empress Augusta and the imperial
courtier Porphyry with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of
everyone, and they were beheaded. Maximian again tried to entice Saint
Katherine, proposing marriage to her, and again he received a refusal. She
confessed her fidelity to the Heavenly Bridegroom Christ, and with a prayer to
Him she herself put her head on the block under the sword of the executioner
and was beheaded."
St. Katherine is the Patron Saint of our daughter, Abigail (Katharina). May her intercessions ever be with us.
Let us praise Katherine the
radiant bride of Christ, guardian of Sinai, our helper and supporter.
By the power of the Spirit, she silenced the arrogance of the ungodly.
Crowned as a martyr, she now implores great mercy for all.
Troparion (tone 5).