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Monday, April 23, 2007

Feast of St. George - more than a myth!

This renowned and glorious martyr was born in Cappadocia, the son of rich and God-fearing parents. His father suffered for Christ, after which his mother moved to Palestine. When George grew up, he went into the army, in which he rose, by the age of twenty, to the rank of tribune, and as such was in service under the Emperor Diocletian.

When this Emperor began a terrible persecution of Christians, George came before him and boldly confessed that he was a Christian. The Emperor threw him into prison, and commanded that his feet be put in the stocks and a heavy weight placed on his chest. After that, he commanded that he be bound on a wheel, under which was a board with great nails protruding, and thus be turned. He then had him buried in a pit with only his head above the ground, and left there for three days and nights. Then he gave him deadly poison, but in the face of all these tortures, George prayed unceasingly to God, and God healed him instantly and saved him from death, to the great amazement of the people. When he also raised a dead man to life by his prayers, many embraced the Christian faith.
Among these was the Emperor’s wife, Alexandra, and the chief pagan priest, Athanasius, the governor Glycerius and Valerius, Donatus and Therinus. Finally, the Emperor commanded that George and the Empress Alexandra be beheaded. Blessed Alexandra died on the scaffold, and St. George was beheaded. This happened in the year 303. Soon after His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.
A church built in Lydda during the reign of Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to "a man of the highest distinction", according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.
The miracles that have been performed at his grave are without number. Also are his appearances in dreams to those who, thinking on him, have sought his help, from that time up to the present day. Consumed by love for Christ, it was not difficult for holy George to leave all for this love – his status, wealth and imperial favor, his friends and the whole world. For this love, the Lord rewarded him with a wreath of unfading glory in heaven and on earth, and with eternal life in His kingdom. The Lord further endowed him with the power to help in need and distress all who honour him and call on his name.
George was canonized by Pope Gelasius in 494 AD. The Pope said St. George was one of those "...whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." St. George exemplified courage, devotion, piety, leadership, truthfulness and dedication. Crusaders venerated him and wore his cross (red on a white background). Of old time, when Christian armies had been about to fight, they have been used to call as patrons upon holy George, Maurice, and Sebastian. King Edward III of England (reigned 1327 – 1377) chose George to be the patron Saint for the Knights of the Garter. The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XIV declared him Protector of the whole kingdom.

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