Holy Great Martyr Katherine, the Wise Virgin (Part II)

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

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THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR KATHERINE, THE WISE VIRGIN (+November 25th)
Part II

Katherine awoke, marveling at what she had seen and heard in the dream. The next morning, she went with a number of her maids to the cell (kellion) of the holy elder (geronda) and fell down in tears at his feet. She told him what she had seen in the dream and asked what she must do to gain the love of Him Whom she so desired. The godly elder spoke to her at length of the mysteries of the True Christian faith, beginning with the creation of the world and our forefather Adam and continuing up to the Second Coming of the Master Christ. He told her of the ineffable glory of Paradise and the terrible and eternal torments of hell, and she, being a learned and wise maiden, straightway understood and believed with her whole heart. Then she received Holy Baptism at the elder's hands, and he instructed her to pray fervently to the Most Holy Theotokos as before.

Having thus put off the old man and clothed herself with the robe of the renewal of the spirit, Katherine returned home and passed the night in fasting and tearful prayer until she again fell asleep. Once more, she beheld the Queen of Heaven holding the Divine Infant, Who looked upon Katherine calmly and with great compassion. The Mother of God asked her Son, "Is this maiden acceptable to You, my Son?"

Christ answered, "She pleases me greatly, for she is now as fair and delightful as she once was black and unsightly, as wealthy and wise as she was formerly poor and foolish. I truly love her, and wish to take her as My bride forever."

Katherine fell to the floor and cried, "O Most Glorious Master, I am unworthy to behold Thy Kingdom! I ask Thee only to number me among Thy servants!"

Offering her hand to the maiden, the Most Holy Theotokos said to her Son, "Give her, my Child, a ring as a token of Your betrothal to her, granting her a place in Your Kingdom."

The Master Christ then gave Katherine a most beautiful ring, saying, "Lo, today I choose you to be My betrothed for all eternity. Take care to keep this trust inviolate, and promise yourself to no earthly bridegroom." With this, He became invisible, and the vision came to an end. When the maiden awoke, she saw on her right hand a wondrous ring and felt such joy and gladness that from that hour her heart was a prisoner of Divine Love. So great was the change which came upon her that she gave heed no more to worldly things, thinking only of her beloved Bridegroom day and night. For Him alone did she long, and her thoughts were ever with Him, whether she was awake or asleep.

At the time the impious Emperor came to Alexandria. Full of blind zeal for his lifeless gods, he was himself, as it were, without heart or mind. Wishing to celebrate a splendid feast in honor of the gods, he sent word to every nearby city and land, commanding the people to bring sacrifices and to come worship together. A multitude of people assembled some bringing oxen, others sheep, while the poor among them brought birds or something else of the kind...

"...The right-believing and virtuous Katherine saw how the souls of men were being deceived and led to perdition, and her heart was grievously wounded because she felt deep compassion for them. Stirred up by divine zeal, she took some of her servants and went to the temple where the useless oblations were being offered. As she entered it, the gaze of all was caught by her indescribable beauty, which testified to the comeliness of her soul. "Tell the Emperor," she said, "that I have something of great importance to say to him."  

The Emperor commanded that Katherine is brought before him. Entering his presence, she prostrated herself, rendering him due homage. Then she said boldly, "Know, O Emperor, that you have been led astray by the demons, for the idols you serve are lifeless and subject to corruption. Great is the shame of the blind, foolish men who worship such vile things! Accept the words of your wise philosophers Diodorus, who says that your gods were once impious men and that because of the notable deeds they worked during their lifetime, the people raised up pillars and statues in their honor. Later generations were unaware of the intention of their forefathers, who erected these things only as memorials. Counting the statues as worthy of reverence, the people began to worship them as gods. Believe the words of your teachers, O Emperor, and do not make yourself guilty of the perdition of many souls. In this way, you may escape the eternal torment that awaits you. Come to know the One, True God, Who is every-existent, Unoriginate, and Immortal, and became man in the last times for our salvation. By Him, kings reign and nations are ruled, and the whole world is sustained. He created and upholds all things by His word, for He is the Almighty and All-Good God, Who has no need of your sacrifices and takes no delight in the slaughter of innocent beasts but commands only that we steadfastly keep His Commandments."

Hearing this, the Emperor was greatly enraged, remaining speechless for a long time. Unable to reply to Katherine's words, he said only, "Leave us now to offer sacrifice, and we will hear you at another time."

The Emperor commanded that the holy virgin is kept under close guard and immediately sent the following decree to every city in his dominion: "Emperor Maxentius to all the learned philosophers and orators in the lands under my rule: Hail! Come to me, all of you who serve the wisest god Hermes and call upon the Muses as patrons of erudition, and stop the mouth of a certain learned maiden who has appeared as of late and mocks our gods, calling their histories myths and fables. Come, that you may display your knowledge of the wisdom of the ancients, be acclaimed by men, and receive from me gifts as rewards for your labors!"

Fifty chosen rhetoricians, skilled in debate and mighty in declamation, assembled in Alexandria. The Emperor addressed them thus: "Prepare yourselves diligently and carefully to contend with the maiden and to prevail in the dispute with her concerning the gods. Do not be slack in your efforts because it is with a woman that you debate, but make every effort to overcome her as though she were the mightiest of opponents and the wisest of orators. Display all your learning, for I have tried her and found her to be wiser than Plato; strive your best in the debate against her, sparing no exertion. If you prevail over her, I will bestow upon your rich gifts, but if you are vanquished, you shall be rewarded only with bitter death."

Katherine was led before the Emperor and the philosophers, to be made a spectacle unto all. The vainglorious philosopher who answered the Emperor immediately began to boast before Saint Katherine and asked, "Is it you who shamelessly and foolishly reviles our gods?"

"It is I," the Saint answered meekly. "But I do not revile them shamelessly and foolishly as you say. I speak the truth gently and lovingly, proclaiming that your gods do not exist." After a long debate and hearing the wise Katherine speak about the True God, the philosopher was amazed and fell silent. The Emperor saw that his champion had been vanquished and left speechless, and commanded the other rhetoricians to enter into the dispute with the holy virgin, but they refused, saying, "We are unable to withstand the Truth. If the most learned of our number was overcome and silenced, what can we hope to accomplish?"

The Emperor was moved to wrath and ordered that a great fire be prepared in the middle of the city to burn alive all the philosophers and orators. When they learned of the sentence pronounced upon them, they fell at the Saint's feet, beseeching her to pray for them to the One True God so that He might forgive them the sins they had committed in ignorance and deem them worthy of Holy Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Saint responded joyfully. Saint Katherine traced over each of the philosophers and orators the sign of the Christ's Sacred Cross. Full of hope and gladness, they went joyfully to their martyrdom.

The Emperor became very angry and commanded that Katherine be stripped of her purple robe, left naked, and beaten mercilessly with leather straps. For two hours the servants lashed the martyr upon the shoulders and belly until the whole of her virginal body was covered with stripes and the ground was dyed red with blood that flowed like a river from them, but the Saint endured with such bravery that those who beheld her could only marvel.

As the Saint was speaking, the Eparch Khursaden, a cruel man and a merciless persecutor, wishing to gain Maxentius' good will, said, "I know a torture, O Emperor, that will enable you to prevail over this maiden. Command that four wooden wheels be fixed to a single axle, and have spearheads and other sharp weapons of iron driven through their rims. Order two wheels turned to the right and two the left. Have the maiden tied down beneath them, and the turning wheels will tear apart her flesh. But first, show the wheels to her! Having seen them, I believe she will consent to obey you. If she refuses, then deliver her to a cruel death."

The Saint was led to the place of torture, and the wheels were spun before her with great force so that she would be frightened. The persecutor said to her, "Do you see the torments prepared for you?" Bitter will be your death if you do not worship the gods!"

"I have told you many times that I intend to remain a Christian. Waste no more time and do as you wish," the Saint replied. Seeing that he could neither frighten her nor turn her from Christ, the Emperor commanded that Katherine be tied down and the wheels turned vigorously so that her members would be severed by the sharp instruments and she would perish cruelly. But as soon as the torture began, an Angel of God descended from heaven and loosed the Saint from her bonds, preventing her from being injured. The wheels he broke into pieces, which flew in every direction from the force of the blows, killing numerous unbelievers. Seeing this glorious rescue, the crowd cried out, "Great is the God of the Christians!"

Finally, the Emperor pronounced his sentence, condemning her to be beheaded outside the city. The soldiers led her to the place of execution, and many people followed her, men and women alike lamenting the approachable death of the fair and wise maiden. "Cease your useless weeping," the Saint replied. "You should rejoice instead, for I will soon behold my beloved Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, my Creator, and Savior. He is the adornment of martyrs, their crown and glory, and summons me to reign with Him and to rejoice for endless ages amid the ineffable good things of Paradise. Do not weep for me but for yourselves: because of your unbelief, you shall be condemned to unending tortures in the fires of hell."

When she reached the place of execution, Saint Katherine prayed thus: "O Lord Jesus Christ my God, I thank Thee that Thou hast set my feet upon the rock of patience and has guided my steps. Stretch forth now Thy hands, which Thou did once stretch out upon the Cross, and receive my soul...Look down also from the heights, O Lord, upon the people who stand here, and guide them to the Light of Thy knowledge. Grant whatever they request to those who, through me, come to call upon Thy Holy Name, if their petitions would be to their benefit, that they may hymn Thy Majesty unto the ages."

Completing her prayer, Saint Katherine said to the executioner, "Do as you have been commanded."

He raised his sword, and when he cut off the Martyr's head, milk flowed from her neck instead of blood. Such of the faithful as were worthy beheld how an Angel came at that moment and reverently took her holy relics away, leaving them on Mount Sinai. Unto Christ God, Who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit in one Godhead, be glory unto the ages. Amen.

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

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

+Father George