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April 23 Saint of the Day – George the Right Victorious Wonderworking Great Martyr

On this date in 1985, Coca-Cola changed its formula and released New Coke. It fell flat. Even the containers that weren’t opened.

GeorgeSt. George the Victorybearer, Greatmartyr, and Wonderworker (280 – 303) has brought hope and encouragement to millions of Christians, and tenure and lucre to hundreds of scholars, for well over a millennium. The patron saint of Bulgaria, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, India, Iraq, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, and countless smaller places, professions, and disease sufferers, George has come under a lot of fire in recent centuries from dragons of the historical-critical sort. Gibbon didn’t think he existed at all, but then Gibbon may well have been mythical himself — at least, he was a legend in his own mind.

George’s dad was martyred, and George went into the army, although those facts are probably unrelated. He became a favorite of Emperor Diocletian, which, as anybody who knows anything about martyriology knows, isn’t necessarily a great idea. Sure enough, George ended up defending his faith before the Senate, and Dio (all his friends called him Dio) was in turns stunned and enraged. Thus began a series of tortures which would make an Orc (one of the paler ones, anyway) blush. Rolled over a bed of pointy things, shod with red-hot sandals, whipped with ox thongs (back when “thong” meant “leather strap” and not “sorry excuse for a pair of undershorts”), and given death-dealing drugs, George continued alive and defiant (if a bit worse for wear).

The emperor (why did emperors always get personally involved in tormenting people? you’d think they’d have had more important things to do) asked George what was so great about this Jesus person, and the saint told about how our Lord gave sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, healed the lame, and so on, ending with raising the dead — so Dio had George led to the graveyard. He (George) prayed for God to reveal His glory, whereupon one of the graves opened and a now-formerly-dead man came forth, brushing the dirt from his clothes and blinking in the light. Immediately the emperor’s sorcerer confessed belief in Christ, whereupon Dio had both him and the newly-not-dead-any-more man beheaded. “I wonder what that was about?” the newly-dead-again man didn’t say.

There was a whole lot more in this vein, including a demon speaking from inside a pagan idol (“All right, I admit it, I’m not really a god”) and the Empress either professing Christ or being ushered away just as she was about to, but we need to get to the dragon (I left him till last because that’s more literary) and we’re running out of words. Suffice it to say George died an unflinching martyr via decapitation. His relics were moved to Lydda (near modern-day Tel Aviv) under Justinian.

Once upon a time in the third century there was a dragon that lived in a fountain near Lydda (or some other town). In order to draw water from the fountain, the villagers had to lure the dragon away by means of a sheep, or, when no sheep was available, a virgin. (Why do dragons always require virgins? Question for another day.) This was all well and good when it was commoners’ daughters being et, but when the princess’s name was drawn, something had to be done.

Fortunately, George was passing through at that very moment. Seeing what was about to happen, he subdued the dragon by making the sign of the cross (with or without poking it with his spear). He then had the princess tie her sash around its neck and lead it into town like a dog. “This is so-o-o undignified,” the dragon thought. “Eeeek! The dragon!” the people of the town thought (and some thought it out loud). “Never fear!” said George, and he slew the dragon. The people burned its carcass outside town, and 25,000 of them converted to Christianity on the spot (it was a large spot). The aforementioned scholars like to make this allegorical for something, but what fun is that? And who wants a patron saint called George the Allegory Slayer?

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

George (detail)Bibliography
April 23 (Wikipedia)
Greatmartyr, Victory-bearer and Wonderworker George (OCA) – Main source
Saint George (Wikipedia)
Saint George (SQPN) – Check out the list of things George is the patron saint of!
Lod (Wikipedia)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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