Posted by: Fr Chris | April 23, 2014

Happy St. George’s Day; Christ is risen!

 

Saint George

While it is Bright Wednesday it is also the feast of this popular soldier-martyr and model for Christian men everywhere as soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the most popular saints ever, his feast day of April 23rd is the only universal feast of a saint other than the Virgin Mary or John the Baptist! Why? He reflects universal Christian values, ones that many men in the western world would do well to emulate: constancy, strength, fidelity, love of God and neighbor, self-sacrifice, upholding a true military code of chivalry and honor. Too often the gifts of Christian men are spurned in pseudo-feminist dialogues of the western world, missing the point of what a solid Christian man offers to the world, and how badly the world needs Christian men! A saint like George, who inspired others both in life and death, and whose heavenly protection has been felt for over 1,700 years, is one who can move Christian men forward in their faith lives.

The basics of the St George icon are the bold warrior astride a white stallion, raising his spear to pierce the dragon in its open throat, while a woman stands in the distance waiting to be rescued. Out of that icon, comes the legend of George slaying a dragon who was fed with an annual tribute of a virgin from a besieged town. But the icon has nothing to do with such a legend at all. Rather, the woman is Ekklesia, the Church. The warrior is indeed George, who we know was an officer in the Roman army and is one of many who died rather than sacrifice incense to a statue of the emperor. We also know that this George suffered a great deal in his martyrdom, probably because of both his high rank and own personal popularity among the troops, in order to frighten other Christian soldiers to convert to paganism. The dragon is the force of Evil – and the righteous George plunges the spear, which is topped with the Cross of the Savior, right into the jaws of hell. Thus Satan is destroyed, the Church’s victory won, and souls are inspired to follow George in his righteous behavior.

In Transcarpathia – East Slovakia, this feast is a major event in the agricultural cultures there. April 23 is when the flocks and herds are moved up out of the valleys and into the highlands, and when the fields are blessed. Even today, this marks the migration of shepherds and animals (they leave the highlands on the feast of another warrior-saint, Demetrius, at the end of October, and the farming season ends on the feast of the Dedication of the Church of Saint George in early November). All the animals are under George’s protection, so if a wolf or bear snatches one on the feast-day, it must be George’s will and no hunter will pursue.

It is also the day to bless fields and gardens. Parishioners come out of the churches carrying all of the processional banners, and the priests go forward to bless the farm fields first, then on their return the gardens of individual houses in the villages. I have seen this practice followed even in driving rain, because there is no thought of delaying the blessing – the private gardens provide so much of the food for villager and townspeople alike.

St George is the patron saint of the Republic of Georgia, of England, Germany, Palestine, Lithuania, Greece, co-patron of Ukraine; of all soldiers, Boy Scouts, the cities of Moscow, Beirut, L’viv, and Venice; the islands of Malta and Gozo where he appeared during an attack by Muslim navies who then withdrew; farmers, shepherds, horsemen and saddle-makers. We all have dragons which need to be slain, and we all should be upright defenders of the truths of the Church: O brave Saint George, help us!

 

Faithful servant of Godand invincible martyr, Saint George;favoured by God with the gift of faith,and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ,thou didst fight valiantlyagainst the dragon of pride,falsehood, and deceit.Neither pain nor torture,sword nor death could part theefrom the love of Christ.I fervently implore theefor the sake of this loveto help me by thy intercessionto overcome the temptations that surround me,and to bear bravelythe trials that oppress me,so that I may patiently carry the crosswhich is placed upon me;and let neither distress nor difficultiesseparate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ.Valiant champion of the Faith,assist me in the combat against evil,that I may win the crown promised to themthat persevere unto the end.


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