(Prayer in Aramaic, Jesus' Language)
St. George (d. c. 303). Although he is the patron of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Genoa, and Venice and is venerated in the East as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, all that is known of him with any certainty is that he suffered martyrdom at Lydda, Palestine, sometime before the reign of Emperor Constantine and that he may have been a soldier in the imperial army.A great church was erected over his tomb and the dedication of this church is celebrated on November 3rd. The devotion to this saint has spread throughout the East and West; the faithful of all rites and nations count him as one of their own. The Cathedrals of Beirut and Sarba are dedicated to him as are a great number of other sanctuaries throughout Lebanon. He is the patron of England, the army, young people and scouts.
All else is myth and legend that began to appear in the sixth century. The story of his slaying of the dragon does not appear until the twelfth century and became popular after its appearance in the Golden Legend in the thirteenth century. According to it he was Christian knight who came to Sylene in Libya, where a dragon was terrorizing the city. The people were supplying the dragon with a victim at his demand; the latest victim was a princess. George sallied forth, attacked, and subdued the dragon; the princess led it back into the city, and George slew it after the inhabitants agreed to be baptized.
A later accretion had him marry the princess. He was known in England as early as the eighth century and had tremendous appeal in the Middle Ages as the patron of knighthood and soldiers, particularly among the Crusaders. "St. George's arms," a red cross on a white background, become the basis of the uniforms of British soldiers and sailors; the red cross appears in the Union Jack; and the Order of the Garter, founded about 1347, is under his patronage. April 23.
That St. George was a martyr in Palestine about the year 303 is fact; the dragon-slaying is a legend. But the legend has captured the imagination of Christians everywhere. He is a favorite patron of England, and of many other countries, provinces and cities.St. Peter Damian, an eleventh century Doctor of the Church and great preacher, managed a sermon about St. George without facts and with legend. In part he said:
- "St. George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier of Christ. Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to the poor. Then, free and unemcumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of battle, an argent soldier for Christ.
"Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defense of the faith.
"As for St. George, he was consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king and acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause... "Dear brothers, let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven's army, but follow his example." (2nd Reading, Liturgy of the Hours).
May his prayers be with us and defend us. Amen.