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St. George: The Prince of Martyrs

  • St. George was born around 280 A.D. of a wealthy Christian family of noble origin in a the city of Capadocia in Asia Minor (a region of the ancient world that corresponds to modern day Turkey).
  • St. George’s father, Anastasios, was martyred for being a Christian by the Roman Governor when our saint was a young child. His mother Theopista raised him in a holy Christian manner.
  • As a young nobleman, at the age of 17, St. George joined the Roman army where he fought many battles in Egypt and Palestine. He was quickly promoted by the governor to an officer in the Emperial Guard where he was commander over 1000 soldiers.
  • St. George lost his mother when he was 20. From that time on, he abandoned the pleasures of this world, distributed his possessions among the poor, and set his slaves and maidservents free.
  • The Edict against the Christians
  • On February 23rd, 303 A.D., when it was the feast day of the Roman god Apollo, Diocletian, ruler of the Roman empire, attacked the church of Necomedea, and burned it to the ground. He also issued an official edict against the Christians.
  • The provisions of the edict were as follows: “All churches should be level led to the ground. All sacred books to be burned. All Christians who hold any honorable rank are not only to be degraded, but to be deprived of civil rights. Also, All Christians who are not officials are to be reduced to slavery”.
  • St. George was at Alexandria at the time and when he saw the edict he read it and tore it up. Consequently the roman soldiers then took him to Cappadocia in the presence of Diocletian.
  • The Emperor tried to seduce him by promises that he would be granted a higher position in the Empire. But as these promises failed to attract him, the Emperor began to threaten him with unbearable tortures that he will inflict on him. At last, he put him in prison.

St. George’s Chastity

  • Diocletian arranged for a very beautiful woman to spend the night with him in prison and try to debauch him. St. George started praying for the poor woman as well as himself. The saint started talking to her about Jesus who died for us because we were sinners, in order to save us from the slavery of sin.
  • In the morning, the soldiers came to escort her to the palace, and to find out what she had accomplished. But to their amazement, they found the half-naked woman all covered up, and sitting in humility confessing that she believed in Jesus Christ the God of George to be her King and Savior. Everyone was astonished, especially the emperor who, in his rage, ordered her to be killed immediately.
  • With great courage she joined the other saintly martyrs.

St. George’s Sufferings

  • The emperor then proceeded to torture St. George while he was in jail without mercy.
  • He stretched our saints arms and legs with chains and placed a huge stone on his chest. They pulled the saint over iron spikes till his flesh was torn.
  • They also passed flames over his body to burn his wounds and spread salt over the wounds to increase the pain.
  • He was put in active lime, and then water was poured on it.

The Magician’s Poison

  • Convinced the St. George was using magic, the emperor called Athanasius, the best magician in the land and expressed to him his desire to kill George . The magician prepared a drink and tinted it with a very strong poison. St. George made the sign of the cross on the cup, and then drank it.
  • Everyone was expecting him to fall at any moment, but when nothing happened, the magician felt ashamed and handed him another cup. Only that time he doubled the amount of poison. The Emperor’s councilors informed him that St. George’s magic was in fact contained in the sign of the Cross itself. Therefore, they made him drink the cup with his hands tied behind his back. The Saint signed it by his head saying: “shall I drink it from here or here or here or here!!!”
  • After the third cup, the magician cried, “I am Christian. I believe in the God of George.” Also, many onlookers announced their faith in the real God. The Emperor was furious, and ordered all of them to be killed.

The Raising of the Dead Man

  • During all these tortures, although the Saint had enough pains and sufferings of his own, but nevertheless kept on talking to Diocletian about the powers of the Christian faith. At the end the Emperor asked him if he could raise a dead man he knew of. St. George prayed to our Lord and the dead man came back to life. The result of that was the conversion of both the dead man and the magician as well as many others. They all were martyred.

The Conversion of the Queen

  • When he Emperor saw that his methods did not work, he promised George to make him the second man in the Empire. To prove that he was serious, he released the saint, and invited him as a guest in his palace. There he met the Queen, Alexandra, who was waiting for that chance since she heard so much about George.
  • The saint started talking to her about Christ The Savior, and how He loved us until death, the death on the cross. At the end of their conversation, Alexandra the queen confessed her faith in Lord Jesus.
  • Diocletian the Emperor went to his wife to complain, but to his astonishment, he discovered that she also had become Christian. He was very wrathful as he ordered the soldiers to whip her before killing her. During her torment, she asked George, “My brother, what will happen to me if I die without being baptized?” George answered, “My blessed Queen, your blood is the holy baptism, which will open to you the gates of paradise.”

The Collapse of the idols

  • In the morning, the Emperor announced that George would offer incense to the idols. Thousands of people started shouting and clapping as George entered in a great procession. He stood in front of the biggest statue, lifted up his heart to God, and after a short prayer, he looked at the idol and said, “If you are the real God, show us your power.” A voice came out, “The real God is Your God, we are devils.”
  • Then George crossed himself in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,and said, “How dare you, then stand in front of me. Don’t you know that I worship Jesus Christ the Living God?” Immediately, the big statue fell to the ground, followed by all the other idols, and they all shattered to pieces.
  • The priests of the idols started shouting, “Death to this magician who destroyed our idols.” The soldiers arrested George, but many of the people who were watching announced that they became Christians.

The Martyrdom of St. George

  • On the first day of May (23rd of Baramouda), 303 A.D., St. George was martyred by the sword.
  • St. George was buried in his mother’s home that was situated on the seashore at Lod, southeast of Tel-Aviv, Palestine. Personal object which belonged to St. George are still preserved in St. George’s Convent in Cairo, Egypt.
  • Before long his fame was spread all over the world. King Constantine, who took over after Diocletian, considered that St. George was the true model of the young christian man, and ordered a church to be built over his grave.
  • There are over 200 churches named after him.
  • He is known as “The Prince of Martyrs” as well as “The Great Martyr” to the Greeks.
  • Among churches dedicated to St. George was one at Doncaster, England in 1061.
  • St. George is the patron saint of Greece as well as Palestine, Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Portugal, Germany and England; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to St. Mark).
  • He is patron of soldiers and archers, cavalry and chivalry; of farmers and field workers, Boy Scouts and butchers; of horses, riders and saddlers; and of sufferers from leprosy, plague and syphilis.
  • The banner of St. George, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the uniform of English soldiers possibly in the reign of Richard 1, and later became the flag of England and the White Ensign of the Royal Navy.

The Fight with the Dragon

  • The legend of the fight with the dragon was documented in a book by James De Voragine, a bishop of Genoa, called “The Golden Legend” (Legenda Aurea).
  • It happened when St. George was once stationed with the Roman army near Salone in Libya, North Africa. In that area a Dragon which was described as a huge crocodile with scaled wings, had eaten so many of the country folks around Salone that the remaining lot fled to the town and took shelter behind its walls.
  • There, the dragon was positioned outside the city gates, and nobody could get in or out. Moreover its poisonous breath was so lethal that as it snored over the city wall, people could actually drop dead in the nearby area.
  • In order to keep the beast away from the walls, two sheep were tethered every day, some distance away. The system worked fine until they ran out of sheep and the miserable people could not think of any other alternative but to sacrifice one child everyday.
  • One day the lot fell on the king’s daughter, Sabra, a girl of fourteen, sometimes called Cleodolinda. Dressed in her most splendid clothes, as for her wedding, the poor girl was taken outside the city walls. While she was waiting for the dragon, weeping, George came up mounting his white horse. On hearing the story he decided to put an end to that tragedy, and decided to kill the dragon.
  • “Fair girl” he said, “do not be afraid for I will save you life with the aid of my Lord Jesus Christ”. When the dragon appeared George the hero got engaged with the wild beast in a great combat. Finally he managed to wound it with his lance so badly that it could fight no more.
  • Now the two of them tied a rope around its neck, and dragged it to the town. There in the market place, George cut off its head in front of all the cheering inhabitants, and the people of the whole town were baptized and became Christians.

May the blessing and prayers of this great martyr be with us all. Amen.

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