Truly strengthened by the might and by the power of Christ was the virgin martyr saint Katherine, the modest and wise. Greatly rejoicing she entered into the contest. She mightily brought down the cruel and tyrannous king, and also the entire team of impious foes. With joy and gladness she was singing with a loud voice unceasingly, “Receive my spirit, O Christ, my glory my Savior and Deliverer.” — Kathisma for the Feast of St. Katherine the Great Martyr
This year we are blessed to celebrate the Feast of St. Katherine the Great Martyr on the same day that we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Although we spend much of our holiday in America being thankful for our families and all the good things that God has given us, St. Katherine reminds us that we should also be grateful for much more than that.
Saint Catherine was an exceedingly beautiful maiden from Alexandria. She was illustrious in wealth, lineage, and learning. Through her mother, a Christian, she became steadfast in the faith and refused to remain silent when emperor Maximinus was celebrating a pagan feast with both animal and human (Christian) sacrifices in Alexandria.
The emperor was taken with her beauty. Out of his desiring for her, he sought to convince her to deny Christ. He callied together 50 of the most talented rhetoricians in the empire to persuade her to sacrifice to the idols. This plan backfired as she converted them all to Christianity and they all accepted martyrdom. When Maximinus tried to woo her with riches and fame, she chose prison and torture.
While imprisoned, the saint was visited by the Empress Augusta and her escort of the military commander Porphyry and a detachment of soldiers. They were so impressed by her holiness that when an angel destroyed the torture wheel the emperor was threatening St.Katherine with, they all converted to Christianity and accepted martyrdom. The saint finally put her own neck upon the execution block and was crowned with the crown of martyrdom in the year 305.
Sometimes God allows tragedy, trial and tribulation to enter our lives for our own salvation and the salvation of others. St. Katherine was given these things by God. By gratefully accepting her trials, St. Katherine brought hundreds to Christ. We sing today that she entered these contests with great rejoicing. In other words, St. Katherine gave thanks for the tragedy, trial and tribulation that filled her life — without which she would not now be the great saint that she is.
Thus, on this great feast, we are called to be thankful for more than just the good things in our lives. We are called to greatly rejoice for everything that God allows for our salvation. Amen.