Monday, April 23, 2007

St. George's Day

As deliverer of captives and defender of the poor, healer of the infirm and champion of kings, victorious Great Martyr George intercede with Christ our God, for our souls' salvation.

From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Website:

George, this truly great and glorious Martyr of Christ, was born of a father from Cappadocia and a mother from Palestine. Being a military tribune, or chiliarch (that is, a commander of a thousand troops), he was illustrious in battle and highly honoured for his courage. When he learned that the Emperor Diocletian was preparing a persecution of the Christians, Saint George presented himself publicly before the Emperor and denounced him. When threats and promises could not move him from his steadfast confession, he was put to unheard-of tortures, which he endured with great bravery, overcoming them by his faith and love towards Christ. By the wondrous signs that took place in his contest, he guided many to the knowledge of the truth, including Queen Alexandra, wife of Diocletian, and was finally beheaded in 296 in Nicomedia.

His sacred remains were taken by his servant from Nicomedia to Palestine, to a town called Lydda, the homeland of his mother, and then were finally transferred to the church which was raised up in his name. (The translation of the Saint's holy relics to the church in Lydda is commemorated on November 3; Saint Alexandra the Queen, on April 21.)


I should note that some believe that there was a conflation of two emperors here and that the traditional referral to Diocletian is due to Eusebius only noting Diocletian and Maximian as the instigators of the last great persecution of Christians. However, some of the earliest manuscripts about St. George's martyrdom reflect that a 'Persian' named Dadianus (which may be a corruption of Dacian) which may actually be a reference to one of th junior emperors of the tetrarchy - Galerius (who was from Dacia as that province was demarcated under Diocletian)and Galerius was the Caesar of Asia Minor and the Balkans at that time. Eusebius does not recount for us anything about St. Alexandra, who would have been so famous a martyr herself that one would think he would have remarked on it. We may never know for sure about that part of the story, but that St. George was beheaded for confessing Christ and was an officer in the Roman Legions seems pretty well settled by all accounts. St. George is such a hugely popular saint in the Middle East and in parts of Europe that he rivals St. Nicholas for the amount of folklore about his life and times and attributions to his name.


Blogger D. Ian Dalrymple said...

The Feast of St George fell on Lazarus Saturday in 2005, the day my wife and I were chrismated and our son baptized into the Orthodox Church.

In one of my extremely rare forays into contemporary literature, I read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian last year. I don't necessarily recommend the book, but it contains some interesting speculation on early legends of St George in relation to the folklore of vampirism. Think of the icon with George slaying the draconis... Really, though, this kind of stuff is unworthy of the saint.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

Many years!

Yes . . . there's a lot of stuff unworthy of the Saints. St. Procopius (July 8, my b-day) of about the same era is simply described by Eusebius (who was Bp. of Caesarea in Palestine) as what sounds like a monk or clerk who refused and was beheaded. But most of the descriptions now reflect that he was a soldier and attribute a great deal more to him. Knowing what the Roman authorities could do to you and facing torture or death is sufficient in my book as an act of brave confession of Christ.

I hate to sound like a skeptic, but sometimes I prefer to hear the simple 'he was martyred under Emperor so-and-so in the year umpty-frat' to medieval descriptions of days of torture (no one's doubting that Romans were masters of torture).

As to vampirism, I saw some show recently about Rumanian folkloric practices among 'Orthodox' about treatment of the bodies and what could cause you to turn into a vampire. I know in the Middle East there is a sort of common folkloric belief about Djinns and all sorts of things that is not strictly Muslim, but is found within Muslim adherents. I think a lot of pious traditions get wrapped up with these things.

But that said . . . I do like stories, apocryphal or not, that encourage us to act in a chivalric manner! Huzzah!

Happy St. George's day!

4:55 PM  

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