St George the Great Martyr – April 23/May 6 I The Prince of Martyrs I (Mar Geevarghese Sahada)

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St George – Mr. Shibu George, St Gregorios Orthodox Church, Sharjah

St. George (Gurgis/Jurjis) was born in Cappadocia, East Asia Minor (Present day Turkey) in around AD. 280, in a wealthy Christian family of noble royal origin. His Father Anastasios was an army chief of Emperor Diocletian, who was martyred for being a Christian by the Roman Governor, for refusing to recant his Christian faith, when the saint was a young child. His mother Theopista took him to Palestine, where she had farmland, raised him in a holy Christian manner.

As a young nobleman, at the age of 17, St. George joined the Roman army, as a cavalry soldier where he fought many battles in Egypt and Palestine. He was a proficient soldier, an able horseman and had a commanding and cheerful attitude. He was quickly promoted by the governor to an officer. Finally, St. George became a high-ranking military officer of Millenary or Tribunus Militum, in the army of Diocletian, where he was commander over 1000 soldiers. He was one of the Emperor’s favorite soldiers. Diocletian was a pagan and a bitter enemy to the Christians. He put to death every Christian he could find. George was a brave Christian, a real soldier of Christ. Without fear, he went to the Emperor and sternly scolded him for being so cruel. Then he gave up his position in the Roman army. For this he was tortured in many terrible ways and finally beheaded.

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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 maidservants free.

On February 23rd, 303 A.D, on the feast day of the Roman gods Appallon and Herecleses, Diocletian, ruler of the Roman empire, he ordered an attack on the Church of Nicomedia, and burned it to the ground. He also issued an official edict against the Christians. The edict read: “All churches should be level led to the ground. All sacred books to be burned. All Christians who hold any honourable 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. All the aides pledged their loyalty except St. George. He stood in front of Diocletian and admitted his belief in Christianity, telling the monarch of the Christian teachings and the Godliness of the crucified Nazarene. He was handed over to Didiyanore the king of Persia, to handle him and if necessary, kill him. This place also came under the jurisdiction of the Emperor. It was here that George became famous. Consequently, the Roman soldiers took him to the presence of Diocletian, in Cappadocia. To the Emperor, St George confessed himself a Christian, and appealed to all to acknowledge Christ: “I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting in Him, I have come among you voluntarily, to bear witness concerning the Truth.” “What is Truth?” one of the dignitaries asked, echoing the question of Pontius Pilate. The saint replied, “Christ Himself, Whom you persecuted, is Truth.”

Stunned by the bold speech of the valiant warrior, the emperor, who had loved and promoted George, attempted to persuade him not to throw away his youth and glory and honors, but rather to offer sacrifice to the gods as was the Roman custom. The confessor replied, “Nothing in this inconstant life can weaken my resolve to serve God.” As nothing seemed to weaken the resolve of St George, the Emperor had him he put in prison. By order of the enraged emperor the armed guards began to push St George out of the assembly hall with their spears, and they then led him off to prison. But the deadly steel became soft, and it bent, just as the spears touched the saint’s body, and it caused him no harm.

Terrible persecutions heaped on St George and despite all the sufferings did not leave his Faith. The emperor tried to destroy the strength and demolish the integrity of this Saint by arranging for an exceptionally beautiful woman to spend the night with him in prison. St. George who could only look forward to heavenly joy, began to pray and within a short while he managed to swing her heart to the Christian faith. Soon she seriously began to inquire about salvation, and by the morning, with great courage she announced her Christianity to the emperor and joined the other saintly martyrs.

The emperor then summoned the executioners to take St George and have him bound to the rim of a wheel set with sharp spikes. Diocletian admired the courage of the Saint and asked him to sacrifice to the gods to save himself. He refused Diocletian’s request and welcomed the chance to martyr for Christ, as his father had done. After praying to God, he heard a voice from heaven say, “Do not fear, George, I am with you.” With the help of Christ, the spiked wheel had no effect upon St. George. When the Saint appeared before Diocletian not only was he unharmed, but an angelic aura had settled about him. Seeing this, two officers of the Roman army, Anatolios and Protoleon, appeared before Diocletian with two thousand soldiers. They admitted their belief in Christ and Diocletian had all of them executed.

That situation got the Emperor and those who were with him angry to the extent that he ordered that they hang St. George among four stands and hit him four hundred floggings on his back and the same on his abdomen. St. George’s skin tore, and he bled. Then, they sprayed on his torn body lime, and poured on it sulfur and tar. In the midst of his pains, St. George heard a voice from heaven saying, “Arise O George and get strong for I am with you.” So, he arose and kneeled and praised with a loud voice so all who saw him healed and making the sign of the cross, believed in Christ.

The Emperor tried in vain to get St. George to follow his faith. Then he ordered that they bury him in a tub of lime for three days till his body burns. But for their surprise, they found him after the three days completely healed and in good conditions, wearing a glorious garment praying, and there was not in his body any trace to the burns. So, everybody glorified the God of St. George.

Then, the Emperor ordered that they nail his feet with nails in iron shoes that were heated in fire. And they were beating him to walk while making fun of him. As for St. George, he was praying and reciting psalms to the extent that he was walking normally in the next day. When the Emperor asked for him, he was shocked by what he saw.

The terrible persecutions continued, and St George suffered for his Lord. After a lot of trials to torture him, the Emperor thought that St. George was saved from them by magic. So, he ordered the magician Athanasius, either to make St. George obedient with his magic, or to make him vanish using a poisonous drink. When they brought the saint, he drank from the cup after making the sign of the cross on it, so it did not affect him. Thinking that the sign of the cross was his magic, they tied his hands and gave him a second cup. The second cup did not affect him also, as he made the sign of the cross with his head.

When the emperor asked what sort of power was helping him, St George said, “Do not imagine that it is any human learning which keeps me from being harmed by these torments. I am saved only by calling upon Christ and His Power. Whoever believes in Him has no regard for tortures and can do the things that Christ did. Diocletian asked what sort of things Christ had done. The Martyr replied, “He gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, healed the lame, gave hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, and raised the dead”

Knowing that they had never been able to resurrect the dead through sorcery, nor by any of the gods known to him, and wanting to test the saint, the emperor commanded him to raise up a dead person before his eyes. The saint retorted, “You wish to tempt me, but my God will work this sign for the salvation of the people who shall see the power of Christ.” When they led St George down to the graveyard, he cried out, “O Lord! Show to those here present, that You are the only God in all the world. Let them know You as the Almighty Lord.” Then the earth quaked, a grave opened, the dead one emerged from it alive. Having seen with their own eyes the Power of Christ, the people wept and glorified the true God.

The sorcerer Athanasius, falling at the feet of St George, confessed Christ as the All-Powerful God and asked forgiveness for his sins, committed in ignorance. In a rage the emperor commanded both Athanasius and the man raised from the dead to be beheaded, and he had St George again locked up in prison.

The people, weighed down with their infirmities, began to visit the prison and they there received healing and help from the saint. A certain farmer named Glycerius, whose ox had collapsed, also visited him. The saint consoled him and assured him that God would restore his ox to life. When he saw the ox alive, the farmer began to glorify the God of the Christians throughout all the cities. By order of the emperor, Glycerius was arrested and beheaded.

The emperor Diocletian made a final attempt to compel the saint to offer sacrifice to the idols. They set up a court at the pagan temple of Apollo. On the final night the holy martyr prayed fervently, and as he slept, he saw the Lord, Who raised him up with His hand, and embraced him. The Saviour placed a crown on St George’s head and said, “Fear not, but have courage, and you will soon come to Me and receive what has been prepared for you.”

In the morning, the emperor offered to make St George his co-administrator, second only to himself. The holy martyr with a feigned willingness answered, “Caesar, you should have shown me this mercy from the very beginning, instead of torturing me. Let us go now to the temple and see the gods you worship.”

Diocletian believed that the martyr was accepting his offer, and he followed him to the pagan temple. Everyone was certain that St George would offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint went up to the idol, made the Sign of the Cross and addressed it as if it were alive: “Are you the one who wants to receive from me sacrifice befitting God?” The demon inhabiting the idol cried out, “I am not a god and none of those like me is a god, either. The only God is He Whom you preach. We are fallen angels, and we deceive people because we are jealous.” St George cried out, “How dare you remain here, when I, the servant of the true God, have entered?” St. George stretched his hands, raised eyes to Heaven and prayed. Then noises and wailing were heard from the idols, and Diocletian’s idols fell to the ground and were shattered.

There was general confusion. In a frenzy, pagan priests and many of the crowd seized the holy martyr, tied him up, began to beat him and called for his immediate execution. As a final attempt to tempt St George to forsake his faith, Diocletian invited St George to dine with him in his palace. Diocletian’s wife Queen Alexandria was also there with them. During the dinner, the emperor made several offers to St George, including that of making him the heir to the throne. But St George was not at all interested in that. He was talking with increased vigor about his Lord. Hearing his powerful speech and true faith to the Lord, Queen Alexandria also saw light and proclaimed Jesus Christ as her savior.

The empress Alexandra tried to reach him, at the site of execution. Pushing her way through the crowd, she cried out, “O God of George, help me, for You Alone are All-Powerful.” At the feet of the Great Martyr the holy empress confessed Christ, Who had humiliated the idols and those who worshipped them. Diocletian immediately pronounced the death sentence on the Great Martyr George and the holy Empress Alexandra, who followed St George to execution without resisting. Along the way she felt faint and slumped against a wall. There she surrendered her soul to God.

St George gave thanks to God and prayed that he would also end his life in a worthy manner. At the place of execution, the saint prayed that the Lord would forgive the torturers who acted in ignorance, and that He would lead them to the knowledge of Truth. Calmly and bravely, the holy Great Martyr George bent his neck beneath the sword, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 23, AD 303.

Icon St. George the Great Martyr holding his sacred head; the inscription by St. George roughly reads: “Behold what the lawless have done, behold my head cut-off for You”, while Christ’s scroll reads: “I see it, O Martyr, and bestow on you a crown”

So boldly daring and so cheerful was St. George in declaring his Faith and in dying for it that Christians felt courage when they heard about it. He was contemptuous of wealth and power, and he faced his martyrdom with courage and peace. Many songs and poems were written about this martyr. Soldiers, especially, have always been devoted to him. St. George, you who suffered so much for the Lord; may your prayers be a strong refuge for us! St George had suffered so much for his Master, surely his intercession never fails.

May his prayers be a strong refuge for us! Holy Great Martyr George Pray to God for us!

Categories: Saints

1 Comment

Beena John · April 23, 2024 at 4:15 am

Thanks for the wonderful documentation on st. George.

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