April 23: ST. GEORGE, Martyr

April 23
ST. GEORGE, Martyr

 
Popular tradition presents St. George(d. 303) as the knight who killed the dragon, making him a symbol of a triumph of faith against the forces of evil. He was the son of an illustrious family of Cappadocia and at a young age was raised to the ministry during Emperor Diocletian’s reign. When the emperor promulgated and edict against the Christians, St. George professed his faith publicly, for which he was martyred. He is the patron saint of England. His tomb is in Lod, near Tel Aviv in Israel.
 
From a sermon by Saint Peter Damian, bishop
Invincibly defended by the banner of the Cross
 
Dear brothers, our joy in today’s feast is heightened by our joy in the glory of Easter, just as the splendour of a precious jewel enhances the beauty of its gold setting.
 
Saint George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier for Christ. Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to the poor. Then, free and unencumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of the battle, an ardent soldier for Christ.
 
Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defence of the faith.
 
As for Saint George, he was consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king and acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause.
 
Of course, the supreme invisible arbiter was there, who sometimes permits evil men to prevail so that his will may be accomplished. And although he surrendered the body of his martyr into the hands of murderers, yet he continued to take care of his soul, which was supported by the unshakeable defence of its faith.
 
Dear brothers, let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven’s army but follow his example. Let us be inspired to strive for the reward of heavenly glory, keeping in mind his example, so that we will not be swayed from our path, though the world seduce us with its smiles or try to terrify us with naked threats of its trials and tribulations.
 
We must now cleanse ourselves, as Saint Paul tells us, from all defilement of body and spirit, so that one day we too may deserve to enter that temple of blessedness to which we now aspire.
 
Anyone who wishes to offer himself to God in the tent of Christ, which is the Church, must first bathe in the spring of holy baptism; then he must put on the various garments of the virtues. As it says in the Scriptures: Let your priests be clothed in justice. He who is reborn in baptism is a new man. He may no longer wear the things that signify mortality. He has discarded the old self and must put on the new. He must live continually renewed in his commitment to a holy sojourn in this world.
Truly we must be cleansed of the stains of our past sins and be resplendent in the virtue of our new way of life. Then we can be confident of celebrating Easter worthily and of truly following the example of the blessed martyrs.
 
Responsory
℟. Fearless in the sight of wicked men, this saint died in defence of the law of God,* for he was built on rock, alleluia.
℣. This is he who rejected the life of this world and gained the kingdom of heaven,* for he was built on rock, alleluia.
 
COLLECT
Extolling your power, O Lord, we humbly implore you, that, as Saint George imitated the Passion of the Lord, so he may lend us ready help in our weakness. Through our Lord.
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