My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON THE 25th
of November, the Holy Church commemorates the holy and
glorious Great-Martyr KATHERINE of Alexandria.
Katherine, the glorious Great Martyr of Christ, came from the metropolis of Alexandria. She struggled during the reigns of the ungodly Emperors Maximian (306-308 A.D.), Maxentius (308-312 A.D.), and Maximinus (308-314 A.D.). The blessed one’s life and martyrdom are so marvelous, sweet, and compunctious that each soul who reads it with care and attention will greatly rejoice and be refreshed by the fruit garnered therefrom…
"This ever-memorable daughter of the earthly ruler of Alexandria, Constas (Kestou), was tall in stature, incomparably beautiful, and exceedingly kind. She was instructed in the wisdom of the Greeks, learning all the works of the poets and philosophers, including Homer, Virgil, Aristotle, and Plato. Not only was she well-versed in philosophy, but she also knew the medical writings of Asklepios, Hippocrates, and Galen. Indeed, the maiden was a master of all the nuances of many languages, surpassing all others in rhetoric and logic. All who saw and heard Katherine marveled at her scholarship. Many of the wealthy and leading men of the Senate besought Katherine’s mother for her daughter’s hand in marriage.
Now her mother was a Christian, but a secret one because of the great persecutions brought about by the followers of Maximian. Both the maiden’s relatives and mother counseled her to marry so that her father’s estate should not fall to another, thus cutting her off altogether. But Katherine, on account of her many philosophical studies, cherished her virginity and protested, giving many excuses; for she had no wish whatsoever to wed. However, when she saw that they troubled her greatly over the matter, she proposed the following–actually to divert them–so as not to be further importuned: "Present unto me a young man who is like unto me in the four virtues in which you claim that I am peerless among women, and I will take him as my husband; for I will not condescend to be yoked yo one who is unworthy or inferior. Therefore, search here and abroad for one who is equal to me in rank, wealth, wisdom, and beauty–if such an individual exists. Yet, if he is deficient in any of these areas, he is unsuitable."
Now they knew that it would be quite impossible to find such as qualified suitor. They suggested the son of the Roman emperor and other possible candidates of exalted rank and even greater wealth, but they were inferior to her in the categories of erudition and appearance. She stubbornly persisted in her refusal to contract a marriage with an unlettered man. However, her mother had a most holy spiritual confessor who was in hiding outside the city limits. She took her daughter to visit the elder to seek his counsel. The ascetic, perceiving Katherine’s modesty and proper deportment, gave close attention to her judicious and well-spoken words. He resolved to bring her to the knowledge of Christ, the Heavenly King and said: "I am acquainted with a unique Man Who incomparably transcends all those attributes thou ahs mentioned and countless others. His comeliness eclipses the radiance of the sun; His wisdom governs those things both perceptible by the senses and the intelligence; the world of His treasures is distributed to the ends of the earth, yet never diminishes, but rather increases; His nobility is indescribable, infinite, inconceivable, and incomprehensible!"
The venerable elder expounded on this and many other salutary virtues. Now the maiden presumed all the while that he referred to an earthly prince; whereupon, her expression changed, and she questioned him in detail if all the commendations and praises were indeed true concerning this Man. He reinforced his praises further, extolling His other attributes. The maiden asked, "Whose Son is this Man Whom thou dost laud?" He asserted, "He has no father on earth, but He was born of a most noble and holy grace-filled virgin in a manner surpassing our understanding and transcending the nature of generation; she was deemed worthy by her sublime sanctity to abid both in soul and body, being taken up into the highest heavens, wherein our Lady is venerated by the holy Angels as Queen of all creation." Further interested, Katherine continued, "Is it possible to see the Youth?" The old man responded, "If thou will do as I say, thou shalt be deemed worthy to behold the radiant splendor of His splendid countenance." Katherine replied, "I perceive thee to be a faithful witness and a venerable elder. I believe al thou hast revealed to me; therefore, I am prepared to follow thine instructions implicitly. Then, the ascetic gave her an icon depicting the Most Holy Theotokos holding the Divine Child. He then called Katherine’s attention to it, and said, "This is the Ever-virgin Mother of the One Whose wonders I have extolled. Take this sacred image and close the door to thy bed-chamber, pray all night with profound reverence to her whose name is Mary. Implore her to condescend to reveal her Son, and, I believe, if thou wilt pray with faith, she will hearken and show thee Him Whom thy soul desires!"
The maiden then took the holy icon and returned to the palace. She closed herself in her inner room as the elder directed. From the tremendous effort exerted in her supplications, she fell asleep and beheld in a vision the Queen of the Angels, as portrayed in the icon, holding the Holy Child, Whose Person emitted rays more radiant than the sun; yet His face was turned toward His Mother. Thus, Katherine sawHis back only. She yearned to behold His countenance, and so went to the other side, but once again He turned His face away. This happened thrice. She then heard the Most Holy
Mother say, "My Child, look upon Thy handmaiden Katherine! How beautiful and comely she is!" He answered, "Nay, rather she is gloomy and so repugnant that it is not possible for Me to look upon her!" The Most Holy Theotokos continued, "Is she not more wise than all the orators, very wealthy, and the most elegant in all the cities?" Yet Christ replied, "My Mother, I tell thee that she is ignorant, poor, and contemptible! Whosoever is in like condition, I do not wish to look upon!" Again, the Theotokos spoke, "I beg Thee, my sweet Child, despise not the work of Thy hands! But, advise and guide her as to what she should do, so as to have a share of Thy glory and behold Thy face resplendent with light, which the Angels long to gaze upon!" Christ then said "She ought to go to the elder who gave her the icon. Whatever instructions he gives, she should do. Then, when she desires to see, she will receive joy and benefit."
Having beheld this vision, she awoke and pondered deeply on the matter. In the morning, she hastened with a few other women to the elder’s cell. Falling at his feet, she related, in tears, the vision and implored him to advise her how to proceed, so she might attain her heart’s desire. The blessed elder explained in detail the rites and mysteries of our true Faith, commencing with the creation of the universe and the making of man. He catechized her thoroughly as to the Second Coming of our Lord Christ and the ineffable glory of Paradise in contrast to the all-grievous and never-ending torments. Intelligent and quick of mind, Katherine grasped, within a short period of time, all the fine points of the Faith through Holy Baptism at his hands. Afterwards, he instructed her to entreat the Most Holy Theotokos to appear once again.
The holy maiden, having put off the "old man" (Col. 3:9) and put on a garment woven by God, went to the palace and kept vigil all night, fasting and praying with tears. Finally, sleep overcame her, and she beheld the Heavenly Queen with the Divine Child, Who looked upon Katherine with a gracious eye. This time the Mother of God inquired of the Master Christ if the virgin pleased Him. Our Lord answered, "She who was formerly unillumined and unsightly is now resplendent and glorious to behold! The poor and ignorant one has become wealthy and enlightened. She who was contemptible and undistinguished has become noble and eminent, and now possesses her many good blessings and gifts that I am well-disposed and desire to betroth her to Myself as My undefiled bride!" At that moment, Katherine fell prostrate, weeping and saying, "O exceeding glorious Lord, I am unworthy to look upon Thee! Make me worthy to be numbered among Thy servants!"
The Theotokos then took the right hand of the maiden and said, "My Child, give her a ring as a token of Thy betrothal to her, so as to deem her worthy of Thy Kingdom." The Master Christ then gave her a beautiful ring, saying, "Behold, this day I take thee as My unsullied bride forever. Diligently preserve this troth inviolate, taking no man to thyself!" And with these words, the vision came to an end. Katherine arose; and verily, a ring was on her right finger! At that moment, her heart was enraptured with the divine love of our Lord Christ. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD