St. Katherine, as a girl was not a Christian. She lived in the early fourth century Alexandria with her mother, a Christian, who raised her with the finest education.
Katherine's mother took her to a holy man who began to describe Jesus Christ to her. He told her to pray all night before an icon of the Theotokos and Jesus. When Katherine fell asleep, she saw a vision of the Theotokos and Jesus, but Christ would not look at her, saying that she was unworthy. Jesus told her to return to the elder for instructions, which she did. The elder baptized her and sent her to keep a vigil all night and to fast and pray. She saw the vision again, but Jesus told her she was now worthy to behold. He gave her a ring, which was also on her finger when she awoke, and remains on her finger to this day.
The emperor Maximinus commanded a festival to be held to the gods and many animals were sacrificed. Watching this in sadness, Katherine went to the emperor and told him that his gods were demons of fantasies and illusions. She told him that there was only one God, whose word maintains the world.
Maximinus, fearing that she would embarrass him, assembled 150 orators to debate her. The Archangel Michael appeared and told her that God would add to her wisdom, and that she would save many. She refuted the orators with the words of their poets who proclaimed the gods, and she used the words of their gods who foretold of the times of Jesus Christ. The emperor condemned the 150 to death by fire. Before they died, Katherine made the sign of the Cross over them as she had converted them. They all died, but not even a hair of their heads was singed.
The emperor tried to win Katherine by flattery, to no avail. She was beaten, bloodied, and imprisoned. The emperor's wife, his military commander, and 200 soldiers visited Katherine in prison, and all became Christians, but were beheaded by the emperor.
The emperor then asked Katherine to be his queen, if only she would worship his idols. When she refused, she went to the place of execution, followed by a crowd who mourned her. She told the unbelievers to mourn their own demise.
She prayed and was beheaded at the age of 18. Milk flowed from her wound. Her fragrant relics are at St Katherine's monastery at Mount Sinai.
The Holy and Great Martyr Katharine
Saint Katherine, the daughter of king Konstus, was born in the second half of the 3rd century. After her father’s death Saint Katharine lived with her mother in Alexandria. Her mother was secretly a Christian and through her spiritual father, brought Katharine to the Christian faith. Katharine was greatly gifted by God, exceptionally well-educated in Greek philosophy, medicine, rhetoric and logic, she was also exceptionally beautiful. Many rich aristocratic young men were seeking her hand and her mother and relatives tried to persuade her to accept a marriage proposal. But Katharine procrastinated, saying to her family: "If you want me to marry, find a young man, whose beauty and enlightenment would surpass mine."
Through God’s will Katharine met an old hermit known for his great wisdom and righteous life. Discussing the merits of Katharine’s admirers the old man said: "I know a bridegroom who exceeds you in everything. He is unequaled." Then he gave her an icon of the Holy Virgin and promised that it will help her to see the wonderful Bridegroom.
That night in a light sleep Katharine saw the Holy Queen surrounded by angels standing in front of her with a child in her arms, who was radiant like the Sun. In vain did Katharine try to look into His face: He turned away from her. The Mother of God was asking her Son: "Do not despise Thine own creation, tell her what she should do to see Thy bright countenance." The child replied: "Let her go back to the old man and ask him."
The marvelous dream impressed Katharine deeply. Early in the morning she hurried to see the old man and clung to his feet asking for advice. The old man explained to her in detail what true faith was, he told her how the righteous are blissful in heavens and the sinful die in hell. The wise maiden understood the superiority of the Christian faith over paganism, believed in Jesus Christ as in the Son of God and was baptized. After baptism, heavenly light pervaded her, filling her with great joy.
With reformed soul Katharine came back home and she was praying for a long time thanking God for the mercy bestowed on her. Having fallen asleep while praying, she again saw the Mother of God. This time the Divine Child was looking benevolently at her. The Holy Virgin took Katharine’s right hand and the Child put a wonderful ring on her finger saying: "Know not an earthly groom." Katharine understood that from that moment on she was betrothed to Him and she woke up with even greater joy. This ring remains on her finger to this day. After that she changed completely, she became modest, humble and merciful. She began to pray to God very often and to ask for His guidance and assistance. She was inspired by one purpose only: to live for Christ.
Soon after that Maxentius (286-305), who was a co-Emperor of Diocletian, came to Alexandria. He sent messengers to towns of Egypt calling people to gather and worship the pagan gods. Katharine was grievous about the ruler’s imposing more pagan superstitions on the people instead of educating them. The celebration started. She came to the temple where the priests, noblemen and commoners gathered and when the wicked Emperor Maxentius offered a sacrifice to idols and ordered everyone to do the same, St. Katharine came with daring before him and denounced his idolatrous errors: "Shame upon you, King, you should know better than worship the loathsome idols! Get to know the true God, eternal and everlasting, it is through Him that kings are ruling and the world exists. He came down to earth and became man to save us."
The Emperor got infuriated by Kathatrine’s disrespect and ordered to imprison her. Then he summoned fifty of the wisest men to dispute with her about faith and to persuade her that the pagan religion is the true one. For several days they were using various arguments to convince her of the superiority of paganism, but Katharine put them to shame with her logic and wise reasoning. Finally, seeing that Katharine surpassed them in logic and learning, they confessed their defeat. The furious Emperor commanded that all fifty wise men be burned. These wise men, at St. Katharine’s prayers, all confessed the name of Christ at the moment of death, and proclaimed themselves Christians. Even after having lost the intellectual contest, Maxentius did not give up attempts to subvert Katharine. Having summoned her he tried to entice her with presents and promises of honors and glory. But Katharine remained steadfast.
When the martyr was in prison, she brought Porphyrius the general, with two hundred of his soldiers, to the Faith. Maxentius had to leave the city for a short time. His wife, the Empress Augusta, who had heard much about Katharine’s wisdom, wished to see her. After the meeting and conversation with Katharine Augusta believed in Christ and became a Christian.
When Maxentius returned to Alexandria, he sent for Katharine again. This time he removed the mask of kindness and started threatening to torture and kill Katharine. Then he ordered to torture her on a wheel with sharp spikes. But hardly had the torture began when some invisible force stopped and broke the wheel and St. Katharine was unharmed. At St. Katharine’s martyrdom the Lord Christ Himself appeared to her, strengthening her. Having heard of what had happened, the Empress Augusta confronted her husband and reproached him for daring to revolt against God Himself. The Emperor was infuriated by his wife’s interference and ordered to kill her there and then.
The next day Maxentius summoned Katharine for the last time and proposed marriage to her promising her everything. But St. Katharine would not even listen to him. When Maxentius saw that all of his efforts were in vain, he ordered her killed, and a soldier beheaded her. Milk flowed from her body in place of blood. It was in the year of 310 on the 24th of November.
Subsequently the relics of St. Katharine were brought to the Sinai Mountain and from that time on were preserved there in the monastery named after her. The Emperor Peter the Great presented a valuable shrine for the relics of St. Katharine.