My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
SAINT KATHERINE THE GREAT MARTYR (Part II)a
The maiden then took the holy icon and returned to the place. 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 holy icon, holding the Holy Child. Whose person emitted rays more radiant than the sun; yet His face was turned toward His Mother. Thus, Katherine saw His 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, "No, 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! 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."
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 t advise her how to proceed, so she might attain her heart’s desire. The blessed elder explained in detail the rites and Mysteries (Sacraments) 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 Jesus 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 points of the Faith. She believed with all her heart and was received into the Faith through Holy Baptism at his hands. Afterward, he instructed her to entreat the Most Holy Theotokos to appear once again.
The holy maiden, having put off the "old man" (Colossians 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! She who was contemptible and undistinguishable had become noble and eminent, and now possesses so 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 Jesus Christ.
Emperor Maximinus issued a decree to every city and village, enjoining al to comply with the following: "I, your emperor, greet all who are under my authority, I command all to assemble, without delay, in the capital, that we may render to the supreme gods in a fitting manner, and express our gratitude for their good favor and bestowal of benefits and gifts. Each one will offer according to his resources. Whosoever disregards this edict and does dare to worship any other god, will be subject to disciplinary action and punishment." The impious emperor sacrificed one hundred thirty bullocks. This was done to render homage to Maximinus and devotion to his accursed gods.
The devout Katherine witnessed this grievous act. Inspired by divine zeal, she went, with a small retinue of servants, to the site of the temple where the foolish ones were performing their sacrifice. When she paused at the temple threshold, all were distracted by her exquisite comeliness which mirrored her inner beauty. She then sent word to the emperor that she had information of vital importance, and he summoned her to enter.
The all-beautiful Katherine approached the emperor, first bowing and then boldly and fearlessly declaring, "O emperor, thou shouldest be the first to know that thou art deceived in worshipping perishable and lifeless idols as gods. It is an absolute disgrace to be so manifestly blind, as fools, to the truth, in thy worship of such abominations… The emperor was greatly angered and remained speechless for hours for he was at a loss to counter her words. After the completed pagan ritual, he ordered that the maiden be brought to the palace, where he resumed his questioning. "Tell us, who are you and whose words to you recite before us?" She responded, "I am the daughter of king Constas. My name is Katherine. I have been instructed in all scientific knowledge and literary works, including rhetoric, philosophy, geometry, and the rest. Nevetheless, I consider all of this vain and unprofitable and have become the bride of the Master Christ, for as it is written by the Prophet Isaiah, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will hide the understanding of the prudent" (Isaiah 19:14)…"
"… The emperor, noting her free manner and speech, did not wish to exchange words, fearing defeat and shame by her arguments. He made the following pretext: "It is indecorous for the emperor to debate with a woman, nevertheless, I will bring together my rhetoricians. Then thou shall comprehend the feebleness of thy syllogisms, and know what is in thy best interest and embrace our beliefs."
One hundred and fifty elite and scholarly men who had keen minds responded and assembled by order of the emperor. The emperor spoke to them and told them, "diligently prepare yourselves to contend vigorously, and be not careless. Appproach her as a worthy opponent and be careful. If you overcome her, I will bestow great gifts upon you. However, if you do not succeed, expect untold shame and a painful demise!"
Consequently, the martyr was commanded to be brought in. The guards brought the Saint forward. The orators, one by one, put her to the test. The debate began but none had the intelect, wisdom, inteligence, knowledge, charisma or eminence of Saint Katherine. They were all overwhelmed and rendered speechless. The emperor became extremely angry seeing that they lost he ordered that a fire be kindled in the midst of the city and the orators be cast therein. As they heard this, they fell at the feet of the Saint, begging that the Lord might forgive them–for they had sinned unwittingly–and that they be allowed to receive Baptism and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Saint assured them that tthe fire with which they were to be martyred would be their baptism and a celestial ladder to cleanse away every stain of body and soul, transporting them, as bright stars, to the King Who is making them His belvoed friends! With these wods, the holy Katherine encouraged them, sealing them individually on the forehead with the sign of the Cross, and sent them to their martyrdom in thanksgiving and rejoicing. The soldierss cast them int1o the flames, jubilant as they were, on the 17th of November. At dusk that day, a group of God-loving Christians went to gather up their holy relics, and found their holy remains safe and intact, not one hair having been singed by the fire. They burieid them with great honor and reverence in a chosen place.
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George