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Saint Catherine the Great - Feast Day November 25th

By Theresa Werbiansky - Grade 6

An icon of St. Catherine the Great

Saint Catherine was beautiful and incredibly smart. She was still unmarried at the age of 19. At that time people were usually betrothed by the age of 6 and married by the age of 16. She was like a middle-aged person.

Catherine had mastered many languages and surprised everyone by using impressible words. On many occasions wealthy and important men approached Catherine’s mother and asked for her hand in marriage. However, Catherine treasured her virginity and refused to wed any of the men who proposed. It seemed as if no one was good enough for her. Catherine’s mother, who was a secret Christine, had urged her to marry so that her father’s estate would not fall into unwanted hands. After many persistent requests, Catherine finally agreed to marry.

She was determined that she would only marry some one with the similar characteristics that set her aside from other women. She would not just marry the next man who proposed. Catherine’s relatives found that it was nearly impossible to find such an honorable and worthy young gentleman. Her mother decided to seek help from her spiritual confessor. She took Catherine to him. He taught Catherine about Christ the Heavenly King.

Catherine was overwhelmed by the thought of Christ her groom, thinking at the time that he was an earthly prince. After he talked to her, he instructed her to go to her bed chamber and pray. She did as what she was told. After a time she fell asleep. All of a sudden she had a vision of the Queen of Angels holding the Christ child. Three times Catherine tried to see Christ’s face, but he only turned the other way. The Theotokos pleaded for Him to at least lay eyes upon her, but He advised her to go back to the elder. Catherine was not yet worthy to see her groom. After her enlightening vision, she accepted the Orthodox faith. In her vision, Mary asked Christ to give her a ring. Catherine woke up with a ring on her right ring finder.

She knew that the emperor Maximianus was evil, worshipped idols and persecuted people for the wrong reasons. These things greatly distressed Catherine. She confronted the emperor and accused him of idol worship. She confessed her love for the true God to him. He imprisoned her and brought many educated scholars to debate and try to convert her to idolatry.

They brought her to the amphitheatre so orators could embarrass and argue about religion and Christ. After a long time, Catherine had persuaded the orators and the congregation to believe in Christ. The emperor grew angry. He had all the traitors cast into the fire. After they had repented and Catherine placed a cross on their forehead, they were sent to their martyrdom full of jubilation. Christians came the following day to collect the bodies, but they surprisingly found the bodies untouched. Catherine was cast into prison.

While she was in prison, the emperor’s wife visited her. She admitted to Catherine that she was a Christian. Maximianus created a torture instrument for Catherine. It was made of four wooden wheels with steel blades and sharp spikes on it. While she was on it, the angel of God freed her. The emperor’s wife confessed her belief in Christ, so the emperor ordered her execution. Catherine said a small prayer before Maximianus gave the order for her head to be cut off. St. Catherine gave her life to Christ on November 25 around 305 AD.

For a description of this icon and the troparion and kontakion for this saint please click here