Friday, November 25, 2022

St Catherine of Alexandria 2022

Truly it is worthy ... through Christ our Lord. Through whom the triumphant, most noble, and outstanding martyr, the virgin Catherine, instructed in the teachings of the prophets, apostles and philosophers, and taught in all languages by the grace of the Holy Spirit, by her wonderful wisdom overcame the emperor with the orators, and the world with all its vices. She converted to Christ the august empress with the aforementioned orators, and Porphyry (her jailer) with all his companions, by her magnificent teachings and examples; and when they had all received the faith together with the sign of Christ from the virgin Catherine, and been crowned with martyrdom, she sent them before her to the kingdom of the heavens. She is the one illuminated by that wisdom which conquers malice, and mightily reaches from end to end (of the word), and sweetly disposes all things. She is that most glorious virgin who with a hundredfold fruits, by her great martyrdom presented herself as an offering to Jesus Christ. And therefore being confirmed by the word of Christ and the visitation of angels she overcame with wondrous constancy nails and wheels, blades most sharp, the tyrant’s sword and threats. She asked from the Lord for all those who devoutly honor her passion health of mind and body, firmness of faith, and abundance of all things. She also, having been beheaded for the name of Christ poured forth milk instead of blood, so that for us who venerate her with pure mind, her teaching and passion might be spiritual drink and food, and the forgiveness of sins. Through the same Christ our Lord, through whom the Angels praise, the Archangels venerate, the Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Principalities and Powers adore Thy majesty; whom the Cherubim and Seraphim celebrate joined in exultation; and we ask that Thou order our voices also be brought in among theirs, saying with humble confession, ‘Holy…’ (The preface of the Ambrosian Mass of St Catherine of Alexandria, used before the post-Tridentine reform of the Ambrosian Missal.)

St Catherine of Alexandria explaining the truth of Christianity to the philosophers sent by the emperor Maximin to convince her of its falsehood. Through the window on the right, we see the same philosophers, encouraged by Catherine, accepting martyrdom. This fresco was painted in the chapel dedicated to both her and St Ambrose in the Roman basilica of St Clement by Masolino da Panicale, 1425-31.
VD... per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem triumphatrix nobilissima et egregia martyr virgo Catherina, Prophetarum et Apostolorum atque philosophorum doctrinis imbuta, omnibusque linguis charismate Sancti Spiritus erudita, imperatorem cum rhetoribus, mundum cum vitiis omnibus mirabilia sapientia superavit. Imperatricem augustam cum praefatis rhetoribus, Porphyrium cum sociis omnibus suis, exemplis et doctrinis magnificis convertit ad Christum, omnesque accepta fide cum signo Christi a virgine Catherina, martyrio coronatos, praemisit ad regna polorum. Haec fuit illa sapientia illustrata, quae vincit malitiam, attingit a fine usque ad finem fortiter, et disponit omnia suaviter. Haec est illa gloriosissima virgo, quae cum centenis fructibus seipsam libando, magnoque purpurata martyrio, representavit Jesu Christo. Ideoque famine Christi et angelorum visitatione confirmata, clavos et rotas, seras acutissimas, tyranni gladium atque minas mirabili constantia superavit. Haec pro cunctis ejus passionem devote colentibus, sanitatem mentis et corporis, fideique firmitatem et rerum abundantiam a Domino postulavit. Haec etiam decollata pro Christi nomine lac fudit pro sanguine, ut sua doctrina et passio nobis eam pura mente venerantibus, esset potus spiritualis et cibus, atque peccatorum remissio. Per eundem Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem maiestatem tuam laudant Angeli, venerantur Archangeli, Throni, Dominationes, Virtutes, Principates, et Potestates adorant. Quem Cherubim et Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti iubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus…
A particularly good turn of phrase from Fr Hunwicke, said à propos of St Nicholas, applies just as well St Catherine of Alexandria; she was “a saint with as large a portfolio of patronages as a Renaissance cardinal.” Devotion to her was very strong in Milan in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, no less than anywhere else, as evidenced by the fact that in some of the early printed editions of the Ambrosian Missal, her name was even added to the list of Saints in the Nobis quoque of the Canon. In addition to this lengthy proper preface (which from a literary point of view is not quite as polished as it could be), her Mass had almost all proper chants, mostly taken from her legendum, and all proper prayers.
A page of an Ambrosian Missal printed in 1499, with the name of St Catherine in the Nobis quoque.
At the same time, it cannot be denied that many reasonable doubts have been raised about the historicity of the written accounts of her life, not by modern skeptics, but by serious and devout scholars such as St Robert Bellarmine and Cardinal Baronius. On the basis of these doubts, the Ambrosian Missal of 1594, the first revised edition after the Tridentine reform of the Roman Rite, removed all the proper chants, and this preface, replacing them with those of the Common Mass of a Virgin Martyr.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: