Each year on November 25 the Orthodox Church honors the memory of St. Katherine. he city of her birth and the scene of her triumphant martyrdom was Alexandria, famous for its schools and libraries, its poets, scientists and philosophers.
When she was only 18 years old Katherine fulfilled her destiny and won immortality. An aristocratic and devout Christian, she was beautiful and very learned. All Alexandria admired her erudition and wisdom. At a time when few women could read and write this girl had mastered the learning of classical antiquity, the cultural legacy of Greece and Rome. Katherine knew the epics of Homer and Virgil, the medical writings of Hippocrates and Galen, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.
In addition, she had been trained in rhetoric, the art of public speaking. She could express her thoughts in clear and expressive language. She not only spoke Greek but also the "languages and dialects of many peoples." Although Katherine belonged to the sex whose intellectual powers were thought to be limited at best, she had fortunately received the education which then was normally a male privilege.
Pagan learning and culture did not, however, in any way corrupt St. Katherine. Rather, it enhanced her Christian commitment. When pagan persecutors challenged her faith, she brilliantly defended it. Byzantine hymnographers praise her stunning victory over Alexandria's most eloquent and clever philosophers. In public view, the young scholarly woman silenced 150 pagan philosophers, convincing them of their errors. She also converted them to Christianity, along, it is said, with the Roman empress whose husband had ordered the persecution of Christians. These 150 converts suffered martyrdom with St. Katherine and are commemorated on November 25th.
In the long catalog of Orthodox female saints no other saint bears her name. Unique in name, St. Katherine, the All-Wise Great-Martyr of Alexandria offers her sisters a unique symbol of Christian womanhood, spiritually and intellectually created in God's image and likeness.
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