SAINT KATHERINE HOLY
AND ALL THOSE MARTYRED WITH HER
November 24, 25
THE ONE-HUNDRED FIFTY ORATORS
martyred by a fiery death.
THE EMPRESS FAUSTINA
with TWO HUNDRED SOLDIERS
slain by the sword
The wonderful and noble Katherine’s father was King Constas, who reigned with his consort Sabinella and governed Alexandria in Egypt. Possessing a most quick and clever mind, she became well educated in all the branches of Greek and Roman culture. She thoroughly learned the art of rhetoric, and in a word, she was smart and proper, possessing all the learning of the world. In fact she was the wonder of her age for she surpassed everyone. In addition to a wonderful mind she also possessed unrivaled perfection of body and form. Being such an outstanding beauty, she was also filled with conceit and pride.
Numerous men had sought her hand in marriage, but Katherine refused all their proposals for she considered them to be inferior to herself, saying: Who can be found as my superior or my equal in point of beauty, wealth, nobility and learning, so as to justify my accepting him as a husband?
Then one day she heard about Jesus Christ from a monk, and she was sure that she had found the bridegroom she was seeking, who was not only just her equal but in reality was incomparably better than her; in respect of beauty and pulchritude, and personal attractiveness, and in respect of wealth and nobility, and of learning and wisdom, Christ greatly surpassed her. But she was quite unworthy of Him, as was revealed when she was sleeping and in a dream, she beheld the Theotokos who appeared carrying her Son, and urging Him to look at Katherine. He quickly turned His head away, making it plain that He preferred not to gaze at her, for only a brief look had aroused His aversion, as though she was extremely ugly and badly formed.
After this encounter, Katherine was wounded in her heart which had become aflame in love for Christ. She went to the monk and told him what she had seen in her dream. He told her that she needed to be baptized and sanctified by the sacred mysteries.
Katherine followed his instructions and humbled herself and developed a gracious inner spiritual beauty, exceeding by far her physical beauty. Then in a dream, she again saw the Theotokos carrying the bridegroom in all His transcendent beauty, and who looked upon her and gave her a ring. Upon rising from sleep, and upon seeing the ring, she knew that she had become the bride of Jesus and had found the Bridegroom she was seeking. Her zealous and passionate love for Christ inflamed her soul with the ardent desire to go to her Beloved through martyrdom.
It happened that she beheld the tyrant of Alexandria, Maxentius, torturing the followers of her beloved Christ, unable to restrain herself, she stood before the tyrant and said: “Are you not you ashamed to torture prudent people who believe and adore the true God, and who refuse to worship and adore the vanity of the world, these vain idols and false gods? Being a fluent speaker and versed in rhetoric she was able to muzzle him with many arguments, and unable to retort, he summoned learned men and orators to silence her. The chanting of the Church states that the opposite occurred: “The aristocrats of the impious she silenced with the power of Holy Spirit.” In other words, with knowledge of falsehood and truth, this woman of universal learning was more than able to refute the former by means of the latter.
The emperor, knowing that he could not exchange words with her without bringing shame upon himself, said that it was not right for the emperor to debate a woman, and told her that he would bring together the most skilled rhetoricians to debate her. He told Katherine that they would surely overcome her feebleness, and cause her to accept and embrace belief in the gods.
The emperor then sent word to his entire domain, calling them to invoke the god Hermes, so that with your help we will overcome this very clever woman who has appeared lately and scorns our most high gods. One hundred and fifty orators, who were well versed scholars, responded to the emperor’s request and assembled together. When the emperor addressed them, he told them that it was a woman with whom you will debate, so prepare yourselves well that you may confuse and defeat her. Further he urged them to prepare themselves so as to approach her as a knowledgeable and able opponent. He promised them great gifts and fame, but warned them that if they fail they will suffer a shameful death. The head of the orators assured the emperor that they will quickly defeat her and put her to shame, and if she is prudent she will cease the debate and conform to your wishes, so send her in to us. Being filled with such conceit he assured himself that she would be easily overcome by their clever arguments and syllogisms.
Then the Archangel Michael appeared to Katherine and encour-aging her, he promised that the Lord will be her helper. He told her that she would defeat them and that through her testimony and witness, she will be the cause of adorning the orators and many others with the crowns of martyrdom.
When the debate began, with numerous arguments she succeeded in presenting an eloquent exposure of the error and folly among these learned men of the world. Katherine was told she should accept the sweet knowledge of their gods. She replied: “My knowledge is from God, He who is knowledge and life; those who fear Him and observe His commandments are truly lovers of truth. The works of your gods and the things about them is deceitful and to be blamed and is something to laugh at and scorn.
Tell us, she asked, which of the renowned poets called them gods? The chief orator replied, that Homer honored Zeuss addressing him as a god. Orpheus gave thanks to the god Apollo. Be not deceived, he said to Katherine, you who are so well learned, by continuing to adore the Crucified One. Then Katherine replied saying: Homer the poet called Zeuss whom you call the chief among the gods, a liar, deceiver and scoundrel like all the other gods. You say that none of the ancients spoke of Christ who is God. Yet through Him the Father created heaven and earth, the sea, sun, moon and the race of man. In fact the ancients did speak of Him. Listen to Apollo who said: The one who suffered is heavenly, shining with triune radiance. The one who suffered is also God, but did not suffer in His divinity. He has a mortal body and was also immortal. He is God and man and bore mortality, the Cross, mocking and being buried . . . Therefore Apollo admitted, though unwillingly, that Jesus Christ is God equal to the Father. She then spoke to them as to how Christ created the world from nothing and rules over it and sustains it, that He who is coessential with the Father, accepted the Cross to free us from the ancestral condemnation. He resurrected on the third day and sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples then sent them to preach the Gospel to all nations. She urged the philosophers to come to knowledge of the only true God, which would be in their own interest to do so.
After much discussion, they recognized their own silliness and were silenced. Then seeing the truth as she presented it, they admitted that Katherine had defeated them. Enraged, the emperor immediately sentenced them all to death, for he realized that Katherine had led them to faith in Christ. So angered was the emperor that he ordered a huge raging fire to be built, and that they all be cast into it. The orators all came to Katherine, not as orators but as humble believers in Christ, asking her for baptism. She told them that the fire will baptize them, and she signed each one individually with the sign of the Cross. They rejoiced greatly as they were cast into the flames,and went to Christ, and the everlasting joy of His kingdom. Christians who retrieved their remains for burial, found their bodies intact, their hair not singed for they were untouched by the flames.
The emperor then turned his attention toward Katherine, urging her to renounce the Crucified One and worship his gods. She told him to do with her whatever he wished but to she advised him that many will believe including those from your own palace, and they will be glorified with me.
Faustina the queen and Porphyrios a military general went to visit Katherine where she was imprisoned, for the king had gone away for some days. Hearing Katherine’s description of the beauty and glory of Christ and how she would enjoy heavenly exultation, with great joy, Porphyrios and the 200 soldiers all came to faith in Christ.Then the Lord appeared to Katherine, for He would never abandon His glorious martyr. He gave her some food telling her “not to fear because you, my beloved will receive many crowns and rewards.”
Upon returning, the emperor again tried unsuccessfully to convince Katherine to worship his gods. His only recourse, he believed was to put her to death. At that time a certain vicious prefect suggested to the emperor a terrible method of killing her with double rotating wheels that would cut and crush her to little pieces so that she would suffer a gory and bloody death. The wheels would turn in opposite directions to make them more effective. They mounted her on the wheels satisfying their desire for quick death. The soldiers were given orders to rotate the wheels more violently. But at that moment an angel came down and released Katherine, who was rendered whole and without injuries. The wheels then went wild among many people bringing some to quick death and many severe injuries. The people who witnessed these things, cried out: “Great is the God of the Christians!”
Witnessing these events, the emperors wife Faustina approached her husband calling him foolish and ignorant, and in his wrath he turned on her, and ordered his own wife to be beheaded. He then had Porphyrios and the 200 soldiers beheaded. How glorious is God in His Saints!
The emperor tried once again to entice Katherine to worship his gods, promising that she would be treated like a queen, but then seeing that she could not be abandon Christ and losing his reason and the hope of bringing her to his gods, he gave the order to behead Katherine. Then she began to utter the most beautiful and grace filled prayers to her Bridegroom, whom she so zealously desired. After completing her prayers, she told the executioner to do his work, and he raised his sword and severed her holy head. Angels came and took up her body and placed it on the highest mountain of Sinai, which now bears her name. Her relics are still preserved in the church which is also named St. Katherine.
One of St. Katherine’s final prayers:
“My Lord and God Jesus Christ, I give thanks to you that you set my feet firmly on the rock of patience and directed my the way I should walk.. Reach out your holy hand which was nailed to the Cross for us, and accept my soul, which today is to be separated from my body out of love for you. Remember Lord, that we are all flesh and blood, forgive my transgressions, which I committed unwillingly, when I appear before your awesome judgment seat; washing them away with the blood that I now shed for you, and grant that my severed body will be invisible to those who would take it, keeping it safe and protected wherever you will. Look down from the heights on your people around me, Lord, and guide them to the light of your knowledge. Bestow upon those who, through me, call upon your holy name everything that they seek for their improvement, so that your works may be praised by all, and that you may be glorified with your unoriginate Father and Holy Spirit, now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”