16 May 2014

Saint George's Day

*SAINT GEORGE'S DAY*



The celebration of St George's Day is currently fairly low key in England and much more celebrated elsewhere. However, the Society and its members are clearly 
succeeding in their constant efforts to revive St. George's Day as the day on which to celebrate being English. There are many legends in many cultures about St. George, 
but they all have a common theme; he must have been an outstanding character in his lifetime, for his reputation to have survived for almost 1,700 years. Most authorities on 
the subject seem to agree that he was born in Cappadocia in what is now Turkey, in about the year 280 AD. It is probable that from his physical description, he was of 
Darian origin, because of his tall stature and fair hair. He enlisted into the Cavalry of the Roman Army at the age of 17, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian and very 
quickly established a reputation amongst his peers, for his virtuous behaviour and physical strength; his military bearing, valour and handsome good looks.


He quickly achieved the rank of Millenary or Tribunus Militum, an officer's rank roughly equivalent to a full Colonel, in charge of a regiment of 1,000 men and became a 
particular favourite of his Emperor. Diocletian was a skilled military tactician and strict disciplinarian, who set himself the task of rejuvenating the morale of the citizens of 
Rome by reviving the prevailing traditions and paganism of Rome. It may be recalled that this was a time of high inflation and civil unrest and one outcome of this was the 
increasing influence of Christianity. Diocletian's second in Command was Galerius, the conqueror of Persia and an avid supporter of the Pagan religion. As a result of a 
rumour that the Christians were plotting the death of Galerius, an edict was issued that all Christian Churches were to be destroyed and all scriptures to be burnt. Anyone 
admitting to being a Christian, would lose his rights as a citizen, if not his life. As a consequence, Diocletian took strict action against any alternative forms of religion in 
general and the Christian faith in particular. He achieved the reputation of being perhaps the cruellest persecutor of Christians at that time. Many Christians feared to be loyal 
to their God; but, having become a convert to Christianity, St. George acted to limit the excesses of Diocletian's actions against the Christians. He went to the city of 
Nicomedia where, upon entering, he tore down the notice of the Emperor's edict. St. George gained great respect for his compassion towards Diocletian's victims. As news 
spread of his rebellion against the persecutions St. George realised that, as both Diocletian and Galerius were in the city, it would not be long before he was arrested.He 
prepared for the event by disposing of his property to the poor and he freed his slaves. When he appeared before Diocietian, it is said that St. George bravely denounced him 
for his unnecessary cruelty and injustice and that he made an eloquent and courageous speech. He stirred the populace with his powerful and convincing rhetoric against 
the Imperial Decree to persecute Christians. Diocietian refused to acknowledge or accede to St. George's reasoned, reproachful condemnation of his actions. The Emperor 
consigned St George to prison with instructions that he be tortured until he denied his faith in Christ.
Historians have argued the exact details of the birth of Saint George for over a century, although the approximate date of his death is subject to little debate.


The 1913 
Catholic Encyclopedia takes the position that there seems to be no ground for doubting the historical existence of Saint George, but that little faith can be placed in some of 
the fanciful stories about him. The work of the Bollandists Danile Paperbroch, Jean Bolland and Godfrey Henschen in the 17th century was one of the first pieces of scholarly 
research to establish the historicity of the saint's existence via their publications in Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca and paved the way for other scholars to dismiss the 
medieval legends. Pope Gelasius stated that George was among those saints "whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.
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