St Catherine the Great Martyr: A casket of sweet spices for her Bridegroom

TODAY is the feast of St Catherine the Great Martyr, a princess of Alexandria in Egypt at the turn of the 4th century.

The Roman Emperor Maximinus conceived an uncontrollable passion for the young Catherine. When she refused him, declaring herself to be the bride of Christ alone, he seized her family property and imprisoned her.

Scholars sent to debate her were confounded, and unexpectedly turned to Christ. Maximinus’s wife was intrigued by her rival, but she too was won over by Catherine. Maximinus had all of them put to death in AD 305.


An icon of Christ the Almighty, in the Greek orthodox Church of St Catherine, West Palm Beach, Florida USA

An icon of Christ the Almighty, in the Greek Orthodox Church of St Catherine, West Palm Beach, Florida USA


AS if it were an alabaster casket of sweet spices, thou didst offer thy blood unto Christ thy Bridegroom, O Catherine, undefeated champion; and in turn thou didst receive from him an incorruptible crown, wondrous saint. So it was, that thou didst blunt the insolence of eloquent men, and draw them to divine knowledge, and with the wise queen they were adorned with the crown of martyrdom; therefore, intercede with Christ God, that our souls may be saved.


Today is also the Apodosis or Leave-taking of the Feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.

TODAY the Temple which held God within her, the Theotokos, is led into the Temple of the Lord, and Zachariah receives her. Today the Holy of Holies is glad, and the choir of angels mystically keepeth feast. Celebrating with them today, let us too cry out with Gabriel: Rejoice, O full of grace, the Lord is with thee, he who disposeth the Great Mercy.



Beneath thy tender mercy, O Theotokos,
We flee for refuge.
Do not disregard our petitions
In this time of trouble,
But deliver us from out of perils,
Only pure, only blessed Lady.

(3rd century AD)


4 thoughts on “St Catherine the Great Martyr: A casket of sweet spices for her Bridegroom

  1. I hadn’t read that version of the story, it’s excellent. Thank you for drawing my attention to it.

    There are quite a few stories like this one, aren’t there, starting with the wedding at Cana, and going on to the story of the Panagia Paramythia, where Jesus rather pretends to be uninterested until his mother persuades him.

    With some of the miracle stories in the New Testament, he does the same thing, he pretends to be unwilling, and then to have his mind changed by something. And of course the Old Testament is full of this dynamic.

    But what’s really nice, is that there’s always a hint of a wink from him, by the end! The result was never really in doubt.

  2. Mother Mary’s intercessory power is evidently written in the bible, and has been revealed through the apparitions and wonderful miracles but sadly dismissed and disrespected by many. She leads a very special path for us to get to Christ, her Son, and it is quite a beautiful walk if one tries!

  3. I agree absolutely. Some churches take the view that devotion to Mary is a distraction from our devotion to Christ. He is the one mediator between God and man, so why is Mary necessary? But in a way, that’s the point. The Orthodox Church doesn’t feel any need to justify her love for Mary. Orthodox sing to her because they love her, because they like her, because as a Church they recognise in her someone who cares. It isn’t necessary to prove she’s necessary. It’s just lovely to know her love.

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