Tuesday, November 25, 2008

St. Catherine the Great Martyr and All-wise

St. Catherine the Great Martyr - Celebrated on November 25th*** (13th Century Icon of St. Catherine with Scenes from her life, from the Monastery of St. Catherine - Mount Sinai (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s0756/s0756002.jpg)
***Note: According to the ancient usage, Saints Catherine and Mercurius were celebrated on the 24th of this month, whereas the holy Hieromartyrs Clement of Rome and Peter of Alexandria were celebrated on the 25th. The dates of the feasts of these Saints were interchanged at the request of the Church and Monastery of Mount Sinai, so that the festival of Saint Catherine, their patron, might be celebrated more festively together with the Apodosis of the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos. The Slavic Churches, however, commemorate these Saints on their original dates.
"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.

Another icon of St. Catherine with scenes from her life (taken from: http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/agia-aikaterina-1.jpg)
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.
The Theotokos and Christ appearing to St. Catherine (source)
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 filled Alexandria.
St. Catherine before the Emperor, fresco by Alevizakis (source)
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 emperor-persecutor Maximian.
St. Catherine the Great Martyr (source)
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.

St. Catherine debating and defeating Fifty philosophers (taken from the following link, see for the full account of St. Catherine's defense: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/11/50-philosophers-who-converted-to.html)
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 to Christ.

16th Century icon of St. Catherine (from the iconostasis of the Katholikon), holding the Cross of a Martyr, the wheel on which she was tortured, and a palm branch symbolizing victory. At her feet are books, geographical tools, etc. which symbolize her great wisdom and learning. Behind her in the icon are depicted the Prophet Moses and the Burning Bush (prefiguring the Theotokos) and the Angels transferring St. Catherine's Relic. (taken from: http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/5sf-mc-ecaterina-sinai-16.jpg)
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." At her execution, milk flowed from her wounds instead of blood by the Grace of God."

Icon of St. Catherine's body being carried by Holy Angels to Mount Sinai (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)
"Following her martyrdom, angels bore her body to the peak of Mount Saint Catherine, where they rested until they were translated to the catholicon of the Holy Monastery of Sinai. Here they continue to emit a sweet fragrance, and many miracles are wrought to this day. The veneration of Saint Catherine spread throughout the West, especially after the translation of relics of Saint Catherine to Rouen by Symeon Pentaglosses, in the early eleventh century. The numerous pilgrims to the monastery from that time resulted in the gradual change of name from the Holy Monastery of Sinai to that of Saint Catherine’s Monastery." (taken from: http://www.sinaimonastery.com/en/index.php?lid=29#)
Reliquary of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai (taken from: http://www.sinaimonastery.com/en/index.php?lid=84#)
"The marble chest containing the relics of Saint Catherine is located at the south side of the sanctuary in the catholicon of the holy monastery. It is the construction of Procopius the stonecutter, who took nine years to complete the shrine in honor of Saint Catherine. This shrine replaced the earlier marble chest, which is preserved today in the monastery’s treasury. Inside are to be found two precious reliquaries given by the Russian Empire for this purpose, the one enshrining the precious head of the martyr, and the other her left hand. The relics of Saint Catherine are brought out for the veneration of the faithful on special occasions, at which time each pilgrim is given a silver ring bearing the monogram of the saint, in honor of the ring that Saint Catherine received from Christ. These are preserved by pilgrims as a blessing from the saint." (taken from: http://www.sinaimonastery.com/en/index.php?lid=84)
For three hymns in praise of St. Catherine, see: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/11/three-hymns-in-honor-st-catherine-great.html.
Icon of St. Catherine the Great Martyr (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Let us praise the most auspicious bride of Christ, the divine Katherine, protectress of Sinai, our aid and our help. For, she brilliantly silenced the eloquence of the impious by the sword of the spirit, and now, crowned as a martyr, she asks great mercy for all.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
O friends of martyrs, now divinely raise up a renewed chorus, praising the all-wise Katherine. For, she proclaimed Christ in the arena, trampled on the serpent, and spat upon the knowledge of the orators.
(taken from: http://goarch.org/chapel/saints_view?contentid=307&type=saints)
St. Catherine the Great Martyr, with scenes from her life (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s0756/s0756009.jpg)
Saint Catherine the Great-martyr, intercede for us!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!


Dag said...

I climbed Mount Sinai in 2001, an later spent some time at the monastery where I saw the icon of St. Catherine. I found a computer image of it here, thanks to you.

I've saved it for my own purposes. Someday I'll use it to illustrate some post I make. By then I'll likely forget where I found it. I'll thank you now for what I should also thank you for later as well.

Best regards,
Dag Walker
Vancouver, Canada

Unknown said...

Great Martyr Catherine, full of Wisdom, help me and pray for us.

Live Peace International said...

We are to this day awe inspired by the virtue of this Heavenly woman. She continues to be an inspiration to all women in these terrible days when many women have forgotten their gifts. I thank God for the Saints of God who were blessed with the attention of Our Lord. Fr John Nelson