The Great Virgin Martyr Catherine the All-Wise of Alexandria was the daughter of the governor of Alexandria Egypt. Living in the centre of Hellenistic knowledge, Catherine surpassed all in intellect in all areas of knowledge, studying the greatest philosophers and teachers of antiquity. She also possessed a rare beauty which surpassed all in Alexandria. For this reason, many suitors sought her hand in marriage, however she refused them all, seeking a man who could surpass her in nobility, wealth, comeliness, and wisdom. Catherine’s mother, a secret Christian, sent her to speak with a holy elder who said he knew of a Youth who surpassed her in all aspects. “His countenance is more radiant than the shining of the sun, and all of creation is governed by His wisdom. His riches are given to all the nations of the world, yet they never diminish. His compassion is unequaled.” Catherine desired to meet this Youth and the elder told her she must first pray to the Theotokos and she would answer her prayers. That night, Catherine prayed fervently and was granted a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos who said to her Child Jesus in her arms, “behold Thy handmaiden Catherine, how fair and virtuous she is.” But Christ would not look at her, remarking that she was ugly and an unbelieving, foolish pauper who refused to look at her until she forsook her impiety. Deeply saddened, Catherine returned to the elder and told him what she saw. He instructed her that she must turn away from her pagan ancestry and accept baptism, preserving her virginity and unceasing prayer. She accepted baptism and that night, Catherine again saw the Theotokos with Christ, Who now looked at her tenderly, giving her a ring as a token of betrothal to the Heavenly Bridegroom. The Holy Relic of her hand still had this ring on her finger. During this time, a fierce persecution broke out and many Christians were persecuted. Out of divine love and zeal for her people, Catherine boldly confronted the Roman Emperor Maximian, who was in Alexandria at the time. She spoke to him with such eloquence and wisdom that even he was astounded. He ordered that fifty of the most intellectual and superior pagan philosophers and rhetoricians to dispute with her. During the discourse, she managed to convert all fifty to Christ and they earned a martyrs crown by fire. The emperor then tried to entice Catherine with riches and fame, to which she angrily reproached him. She was fiercely tortured and thrown into prison. The Empress Augusta and the military commander Porphyrios had heard of the saint and wished to see her. The martyr spoke to them the Wisdom of Christ and converted them both, along with 200 soldiers with Porphyrios, to which they all met a martyrs end. The emperor ordered that Catherine be tortured on a spiked wheel, but an angel came and smashed it to pieces. Seeing the steadfastness of the Saint, Emperor Maximian ordered her execution by beheading. The Holy Relics of Saint Catherine were miraculously taken by angels to Mount Sinai where they still rest today.
Ἦχος πλ. α’. Τὸν συνάναρχον Λόγον.
Τὴν πανεύφημον νύμφην Χριστοῦ ὑμνήσωμεν, Αἰκατερίναν τὴν θείαν καὶ πολιοῦχον Σινᾶ, τὴν βοήθειαν ἡμῶν καὶ ἀντίληψιν· ὅτι ἐφίμωσε λαμπρῶς, τοὺς κομψοὺς τῶν ἀσεβῶν, τοῦ Πνεύματος τῇ δυνάμει, καὶ νῦν ὡς Μάρτυς στεφθεῖσα, αἰτεῖται πᾶσι τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.
Ἦχος γ’. Ἡ Παρθένος σήμερον.
Τὴν σοφίαν ἄνωθεν, κομισαμένη τοῦ λόγου, τῶν ῥητόρων ἤλεγξας, τὰς φληναφίας εὐτόνως· κάλλεσι, τῆς παρθενίας ὡραϊσμένη, αἵμασι, τῆς μαρτυρίας πεποικιλμένη· διὰ τοῦτό σε ὡς νύμφην, Αἰκατερίνα Χριστὸς προσήκατο.
By your virtues as by rays of the sun you enlightened the unbelieving philosophers, / and like the most bright moon you drove away the darkness of disbelief from those walking in the night; / you convinced the queen, and also chastised the tyrant, / God-summoned bride, blessed Catherine. / You hastened with desire to the heavenly bridal chamber of the fairest Bride-groom Christ, / and you were crowned by Him with a royal crown; / standing before Him with the angels, pray for us who keep your most sacred memory.
Let all of us who love to honor the martyrs / form a great choir in praise of the most wise Catherine, / for she preached Christ and trampled the serpent, / despising the knowledge of the orators!