Holy and Great Martyr George (April 23)

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE HAS RISEN!

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ON APRIL 23rd OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST OF HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR GEORGE

This most renowned and glorious Holy 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 25, to the rank of tribune, and as such was in service under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. When this Emperor began a terrible persecution of Christians, George came before him and boldly confessed that he was a Christian. Emperor Diocletian 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, through some magician, 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 Empress Alexandra be beheaded. Blessed Alexandra died on the scaffold before being killed, and Saint George was beheaded. This happened in the year 303 A.D. 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 honor him and call on his name.

The magnitude of the esteem in which Saint George is held by the Greek Orthodox Christians is shown by the fact that there is practically no village or city without a church in his honor. His Apolytikion hymn calls him "the liberator of prisoners, the protector of the poor, the healer of the sick, and the champion of Christian kings."

According to a very early tradition, his martyrdom took place in Lyda, a small city in Palestine. Thus, Lyda became very early the center of honor for the holy Martyr not only for being the place of his martyrdom but for the fact that his body was entombed there. A church in his name was built on the spot of his entombed holy relics. Already by the 4th-century churches in Saint George's name were found throughout the Middle East and there is evidence that a church in his honor was already built in Byzantium by the time of Saint Constantine the Great. The fame and honor of Saint George spread to the West from Byzantium by the 5th century. In Egypt, there were 40 churches and 3 monasteries in honor of Saint George by the 4th century.

The earliest and most authoritative holy icons of Saint George depict the Saint with the Martyr's tunic and holding a cross on his right hand. But beginning with the post-Byzantine period (12th century and on) Saint George is depicted in military uniform, bearing arms, and on a horse. In some of these, he is depicted killing a dragon (according to a synaxarion of the 11th century) that was threatening the life of the daughter of king Selbios. In other depictions, he is killing a barbarian, and in others, a youth is riding behind him whom the Saint brings back to his parents after freeing him from the Saracens.

Most of the icons of Saint George now in churches depict him on a horse killing the dragon which later theologians interpreted as the personification of evil. It has been only very recently that our neo-Byzantine iconography began to return to the early and most authoritative depictions of the holy Martyr as a young nobleman wearing not only the tunic of the Martyr but that indescribable 'gladsome light' that emanated from the face and the eyes of the Martyr of Christ. This returning to the ancient iconographic depictions of Saint George is important for the Orthodox Christian who, bowing before the holy icon of the Saint to venerate him, finds himself/herself venerating the dragon or the horse, the Saint himself having been placed on the upper part of the icon where the worshiper can hardly reach.

Great Martyr George has been adopted as the champion of the military and the Patron Saint of nations most notable of which is England. From the 14th century a uniform bearing a red cross on a white background, known as Saint George's arms, became the formal uniform of soldiers and sailors. Saint George has been known to England since the 8th century but his becoming a patron Saint of the nation is probably connected with King Edward III who about 1347 founded the Order of the Garter under the name and patronage of Saint George. In 1415 Saint George's feast was made one of the chief feasts of the ecclesiastical calendar of England.

In both East and West, Saint George's feast is celebrated on April 23rd. In the Orthodox Church, if the 23rd of April happens to fall within the Holy and Great Week, Saint George's feast is celebrated on Monday of the Renewal or Bright Week. (References: The Prologue from Ochrid and A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy)

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CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
ND A SPECIAL BLESSING TO ALL THOSE WHO CELEBRATE THE FEAST OF HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR GEORGE THROUGH HIS HOLY INTERCESSIONS.

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Glory Be To GOD For All things!"- Saint John Chrysostomos

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With agape in Our Risen Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George