Great Martyr, Trophy-Bearer and Wonderworker George

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord, Redeemer, God and Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

THE LIFE OF THE GREAT MARTYR, TROPHY-BEARER AND WONDERWORKER GEORGE--Feast-day on April 23rd

Troparion (Tone Four)

You were bound for good deeds, O Martyr of Christ: George; by faith you conquered the torturer's godlessness. You were offered as a sacrifice pleasing to God; thus you received the crown of victory Through your intercession, forgiveness of sins is granted to all.

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Kontakion Hymn. (Tone Four)

God raised you as his own gardener, O George, for you have gathered for yourself the sheaves of virtue. Having sown in tears, you now reap with joy; you shed your blood in combat and won Christ as your crown. Through your intercessions, forgiveness of sins is granted to all.

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This great and wonderful athlete of Christ's was the son of a wealthy and high-ranking Cappadocian family. St. George having lost his father at the early age of ten, his mother Polychronia, who had become a Christian without her husband's knowledge, returned to Palestine, her homeland, and brought up her son in the evangelical virtues. Handsome, intelligent and refined in manner, George embarked on a military career at the age of eighteen. He pleased his superiors and was quickly promoted to the rank of tribune in the imperial guard, and then, it would appear, to that of prefect.

Returning to Cappadocia after a victorious campaign and passing through the region of Attalia in Pamphylia, he freed the king's daughter, who had been left at the mercy of a dangerous dragon, and killed the beast with a divine strength that he was given by his faith. Marveling at this demonstration of the strength given by Christ to His faithful ones against the forces of evil, the local pagans were all converted to Christianity.

At the time of the Great Persecution unleashed by the pagan Roman emperor Diocletian (304 AD), when the emperor had summoned all the Eastern governors to Nicomedia to make them privy to his decrees against the Christians, Saint George, sensing that the moment had come for him to make public confession of Christ, gave all his goods away to the poor, freed his slaves and went to court. He appeared in the midst of the assembly and reproached the sovereign for unjustly shedding the innocent blood of Christians. Diocletian in stupefaction ordered his second-in-command Magnetius to interrogate this insolent young man about his faith. St. George replied that it was because he believed in Christ the True God that he had come without fear to reproach them. Having recovered from his amazement, the pagan emperor, fearing a tumult among those present, offered to heap honors on the Saint on condition that he sacrifice to the gods of the pagan empire. Saint George replied:

"Your reign will become corrupt and will quickly disappear at no gain to you; but those who offer a sacrifice of praise to the King of Heaven will reign with Him for all eternity!"

At the sovereign's orders, the guards beat the Saint on the stomach with their lances. His blood flowed down but, at the first blows, their weapons became twisted as though they were made of some soft material. Christ's soldier was then thrown into prison with heavy stone on his breast. The next day, he appeared once more before the tyrant and showed the same firmness. They therefore tied him to a wheel suspended over sharp instruments, so that, when the wheel was turned, the Saint's body would gradually be cut to pieces. Overcoming the pain with his overflowing love for God, Saint George unceasingly gave thanks to God. A voice was then heard from heaven saying:

"Fear nothing, George; I am with you!"

And white clad Angel more resplendent than the sun descended to loose him and heal his wounds.

When he appeared safe and sound before the pagan emperor, two officers of the guard, Anatolius and Protoleon, confessed Christ with loud voices. They were beheaded at once. The Empress Alexandra (April 21st) also declared herself to be ac Christian, but Magnetius constrained her to withdraw to the palace. Then they threw the Saint into a ditch filled with quicklime; but, like the Three Young men in the Babylonian furnace, he emerged unharmed after three days, greeted by the crowd with the cry, "Great is George's God!"

The emperor, still remaining insensible before all these demonstrations of Christ's power, ordered that the martyr be forced to walk in shoes studded with red-hot-nails. "Run, George, towards the object of our desire!" said the Saint, invoking the Lord's help. And once again he presented himself, whole and radiant with grace, before the tyrant.

By the grace of God, he also escaped a poison prepared by a sorcerer called Athanasius. When the latter and those of his sort were still incredulous and reckoned that St. George was using magical arts, he, at their request, raised a dead man who had been buried for three hundred years. The man prostrated before the Saint and, declaring that he had been wrested from hell at George's prayers, he confessed Christ. The defeated sorcerer then fell at the feet of the servant of God and, in his turn, proclaimed the True Faith. The pagan emperor Diocletian ordered that Athanasius and the resurrected man be beheaded without delay.

 Not a few of those who had come to believe in Christ as a result of Saint George's miracles found the means to visit him in prison, in order to be instructed in the truths of the Gospel or to receive the healing of their ills. The Saint had compassion on the sufferings of each of them, and even restored to life a bull belonging to a peasant called Glycerius, who was then arrested and beheaded without any sort of trial.

The next day, Diocletian had St. George appear in the Temple of Apollo before a fairly large crowd. Pretending that he intended to offer sacrifice, the Martyr went into the temple and confronted the idol, making the sign of the Cross. The demons that lived in the idol then confessed in terror that Christ alone is the True God, and they escaped with great hubbub, leaving the inert statues to fall to the ground. The priests and the pagans then drove the Saint out with loud cries and took him back to the palace. Attracted by the tumult, Empress Alexandra came out and forced her way through the crowd, crying out: "God of George, come to my aid!" and she fell at the Saint's feet. Unable any longer to contain his fury, the tyrant, whose heart was hardened as Pharaoh's had been of old, ordered that they both be beheaded. But, some time before the execution, Alexandra peacefully gave her soul into God's hands in prison.

When the day arrived, Saint George went to the place of execution followed by a large crowd. He gave thanks to God for His benefits, and, begging His help for all those who would trustingly invoke his intercession throughout the centuries, bent his neck under the sword and went to carry off the trophies of eternal glory.

Carrying out the Saint's desire, his servant took his precious relics back to his country, to Lydda (Diospolis) in Palestine, where innumerable miracles were worked in the great church that was built in his honor.

The veneration of Saint George enjoyed enormous popularity throughout the Christian world, both East and West. He was chosen to be the protector of countries like Georgia and England; thousands of churches have been dedicated to him and every Christian soul sees in him the incarnation of the virtues of valor, patience in affliction and trust in the help of grace that Christ, the Leader in battle, has enjoined on all the soldiers enrolled in His army of devotion.

The feast and commemoration of Saint George is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers may be conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast.

If the Feast of Saint George occurs during Great Lent or Holy Week, the feast is transported to the Monday after Pascha, the Monday of Bright Week. This is done not only because the Divine Liturgy is not conducted on the weekdays of Lent, but also because many of the hymns of the Feast are Paschal in nature. This is due to the fact that under the Old Calendar, this feast never occurred before the annual celebration of Pascha.

(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

MIRACLES:

A woman had bought a pillar for a church being dedicated to Saint George in Rome. However, she had no means of transporting the pillar. One night she dreamt of Saint George. He helped her to lift the pillar and then throw it into the sea. Soon afterwards, the pillar was found in Rome with instructions to place it on the right side of the church as the woman had wished.

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In the city of Paflagonia, some children were playing in the courtyard of the church of Saint George. One of the boys was being teased by the others. He went to the icon of Saint George to ask for help. In return, the boy promised to make the Saint a food called sfouggato a type of onion omelet. The boy returned to the courtyard and won a wrestling match with several boys. He went home and made the sfouggato and took it to the Saint's icon. Shortly afterwards, three young men entered the church and saw the food. In jest, they said that the Saint would not eat the food, so they decided to sit on the steps of the altar and eat it themselves. When they tried to get up, they found themselves stuck to the marble steps. Only after offering the Saint three gold pieces, were they able to leave.

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Again in the city of Paflagonia in Pontus, many churches had been dedicated to Saint George. Many families named their children George or Georgia in honor of this Great Martyr. The following, miracle concerns one particularly pious couple who had named their son George. The boy had been raised with great faith. As was the law, when he became twenty years old, he served in the army. During a battle with a barbaric tribe, many Christian soldiers were either murdered, imprisoned, or enslaved. George became a personal slave to one of the barbarian officers. His parents, giving him up for dead, had mourned him for a year. They went to one of the churches dedicated to Saint George and asked that he tell them what had happened to their son. The Feast-Day of Saint George was being celebrated on the anniversary of the boy's disappearance. The parents invited their relatives to dinner since they hoped that Saint George would give them a sign concerning their son. That same evening, the barbarian master was preparing for a dinner and ordered George to draw some water with which to wash his master's feet. As he drew the water he cried and prayed to Saint George to reunite him with his family. As he prepared to return to his master, a horseman appeared before him on a white horse. It was Saint George. The Saint put him on the horse and the boy found himself in the house of his parents while they were eating. One may imagine the happiness that filled that house. It is from this miracle that another icon of Saint George is based. It depicts a boy on the back of the horse with Saint George. This icon was first made in early Byzantium.

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Of the many miracles worked by the holy Great Martyr George, the most famous are depicted in iconography. In the Saint's native city of Beirut were many idol-worshippers. Outside the city, near Mount Lebanon, was a large lake, inhabited by an enormous dragon-like serpent. Coming out of the lake, it devoured people, and there was nothing anyone could do, since the breath from its nostrils poisoned the very air.

On the advice of the demons inhabiting the idols, the local ruler came to a decision. Each day the people would draw lots to feed their own children to the serpent, and he promised to sacrifice his only daughter when his turn came. That time did come, and the ruler dressed her in her finest attire, then sent her off to the lake. The girl wept bitterly, awaiting her death. Unexpectedly for her, Saint George rode up on his horse with spear in hand. The girl implored him not to leave her, lest she perish.

The Saint signed himself with the Sign of the Cross. He rushed at the serpent saying, "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Saint George pierced the throat of the serpent with his spear and trampled it with his horse. Then he told the girl to bind the serpent with her sash, and lead it into the city like a dog on a leash.

The people fled in terror, but the Saint halted them with the words: "Don't be afraid, but trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in Him, since it is He Who sent me to save you." Then the Saint killed the serpent with a sword, and the people burned it outside the city. Twenty-five thousand men, not counting women and children, were then baptized. Later, a church was built and dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos (Mother of God) and the Great Martyr George.

The battle between Saint George and the dragon represents also the battle between the Christian Church and Satan.

The life of Saint George is a prime example of the life that each Orthodox Christian should follow to obtain salvation.

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CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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Please keep in your hearts and prayers all Christians throughout the world, especially those who are being persecuted and beheaded for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and for Our Holy Church.

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George