Holy Great Martyr Katherine, the Wise Virgin


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


[From Metaphrastes and The Anthology printed in Moscow and according to The Martyrologion and other sources, Maximian was Emperor of the East at that time.]

During the reign of the impious and pagan Roman emperor Maxentius, there lived in the city of Alexandria a maiden named Katherine. She was of royal lineage, very beautiful and tall, and had reached the age of eighteen. She was also most learned, having studied all the writings of the Hellenes (Greeks), and had acquainted herself with the authors of antiquity: Homer, Virgin, Aristotle, Plato, and others. It was not, however, only the philosophers that she had read: she knew well the books of the physicians Asclepius, (Asclepius was the Greek god of medicine), Hippocrates, and Galen. Moreover, she has entirely mastered the arts of rhetoric and dialectic and knew many languages, so that all were amazed at her learning. Numerous rich men of noble birth came to ask her hand of her mother, who held the Christian faith secretly because of the great persecution raised up against the faithful at the time by Maxentius. Katherine's mother and relatives often counseled the maiden to marry so that the royal inheritance passed down from her father would not fall into the hands of strangers and thus be lost to her family, but the wise Katherine loved virginity greatly and did not wish to be married. She answered those who urged her, "If you wish me to enter into wedlock, find me a youth who possesses the four things which I have (as you well know) in greater measure than all other maidens, not one that is inferior to me and unworthy of my hand. Look about for a young man who is of noble lineage, wealthy, handsome, and learned; if he is lacking in one of these things, he is not worthy of me."

Unable to find such a youth, Katherine's relatives said, "Although the sons of emperors and great princes are highborn and wealthier than she, not one is as handsome or as wise."

Said Katherine, "I do not desire a bridegroom who is uneducated."

Now the spiritual father of Katherine's mother, a holy man who ever sought to please God, lived in a secret place outside the city. Taking her daughter with her, Katherine's mother went to visit him and to receive good counsel concerning this matter. Seeing that the maiden was beautiful and modest and that that she spoke with prudence and wisdom, he made it his purpose to bring her to know Christ, the King of Heaven. He said, "I know a wondrous Youth Who is Infinitely greater than you in every way. His countenance is brighter than the rays of the sun, and it is by His wisdom that all things are governed, both in the material world and the spiritual. His riches are spread throughout the whole world yet never fail, and He is unimaginably illustrious."

Thinking that the elder was speaking of some earthly prince, the maiden's heart was troubled. The expression on her face changed, and she asked him if what he had said was true. He assured her that he had spoken the truth and that the Youth possessed so many other gifts that it was impossible to tell of them all.

"Whose Son is the Youth Whom you praise thus?" asked the maiden.

The elder (geronda) replied, "He has no father on earth, for He was born in a manner surpassing nature, from the most noble, holy, and pure of virgins. It was because of her surpassing purity and Holiness that she was deemed worthy to bear Him as her Son. Immortality has been bestowed upon both her soul and body, and she has been translated (metastasis) above the heavens, where the Angels revered her as the Queen of all creation."

"Is it possible for me to see the Youth of Whom you relate such wondrous things?" asked Katherine.

"If you do as I say," the elder replied, "you will be deemed worthy to behold His radiant countenance."

Then Katherine said to him, "I see that you are a wise and venerable elder; therefore, I believe that you speak the truth. I am prepared to do whatever you say, if only I may see Him Whom you praise."

The elder gave Katherine an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos holding the Divine Infant in her embrace, and said, "This is the image of the Virgin Mother of the Child of Whom I have told you such marvelous things. Take it to your home, lock the doors of your room, and fervently pray till dawn to her who is depicted on it, beseeching her to permit you to behold her Son. Her name is Mary. I believe that if you call upon her with faith, she will hearken unto you and grant you the desire of your heart."

The maiden took the holy icon and returned home. That night, she shut herself in her room and prayed as the elder had instructed her. While praying, she fell asleep from weariness and beheld in a dream the Queen of the Angels holding the Holy Child as on the icon. He shone with Light brighter than the rays of the sun, but Katherine could not see His face, which He turned away toward His Mother. Wishing to behold His countenance, Katherine moved to the other side of the room, but Christ again turned His face away. After He had done this thrice, the Holy Virgin said to Him, "Behold my Child, how fair and virtuous is Your handmaiden Katherine!"

To this He replied, "No, she is black and unsightly. I cannot bear to look upon her."

"Is she not more learned than any scholar, wealthy, and of exceedingly noble birth?" asked the Most Holy Theotokos.

"I say to you, Mother, that she is a foolish pauper and baseborn, and I will not look at her until she forsakes impiety," said Christ.

Then the Lord's Most Blessed Mother said to Him, "I beseech You, sweetest Child, do not disdain her whom You have created. Show her what she must do the delight in Your glory and to see Your most radiant face, which Angels desire to behold."

"Let her return to the elder who gave her the icon," said Christ, "and do as he says. Then she will see Me and find grace in My sight." (Source: The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-Saint John Chrysostomos


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George