Today we celebrate the memory of the holy Great-martyr Katherine of Alexandria.

St. Katherine

Let us sing of the illustrious bride of Christ, holy Katherine, the protectress of Sinai, who is our refuge and our help. With the sword of the Spirit, she brilliantly silenced the sophistry of the impious; as a crowned martyr, she forever entreats great mercy for us all.

Thanksgiving

For some reason the feast of St. Katherine always reminds me of Thanksgiving. Probably because they almost always coincide in some way, either occuring on the same day, or within a few days of each other.

The coincidence of these two celebrations naturally brings to mind the relationship of giving thanks to martyrdom. The first thing that strikes me about the stories of the martyrs is the gratitude and joy they feel because they have been privileged to bear the ultimate witness to their faith in Christ by enduring tortures and death. The Synaxarion compiled by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra (vol. 2, 1999, p. 239) illustrates this in the martyrdom of St. Katherine:

On 25 November, Catherine was brought forth from her dungeon to appear at the tribunal, fairer and more radiant with heavenly joy than when she had entered it, for she saw that the day of her union with Christ had come at last. She was taken outside the city and, after a last prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, who had revealed to her the inexhaustible treasures of true wisdom, she was beheaded in her turn.

This young girl, so wise in the ways of the world, saw all her earthly wisdom as nothing compared with the wisdom and beauty of her Lord. She was about to give a witness to her love for God, and was grateful that such an opportunity was provided to her.

We look at such love with admiration, but at a distance: there’s no way I could ever achieve such a deep love that I would be thankful for my persecutors. When we make that small gesture toward gratitude to God for what he has given us on Thanksgiving, there will be little gratitude expressed that life gives us the constant opportunity to grow deeper in love with God. Yes, we are grateful for family and friends, for health and prosperity, all these things are important gifts. But the greatest gift we have is God’s love towards us, and the grace he gives us to love him in return. Do we love him enough to thank him for this? If not, our prayer should be that God will strengthen our love to the point that, with St. Katherine, we are willing to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for any opportunity to give witness to our love.

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