Sermon: St. George

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In the late 4th century there was a spring outside of Silene, Lybia where the people would go on a daily basis for their water.  All was well until one day a dragon decided to make its nest at the spring, making water collecting a dangerous business.  The locals tried several schemes to remove the dragon, one of which was offering it a sheep each day.  That worked until they ran out of sheep, so they resorted to offering the dragon a maiden who was chosen by the drawing of straws.  This also worked until the princess’ was selected.  The king begged for his daughter to be spared, but what is good for the peasant is apparently good for the princess and she was offered up.  However, before she was killed, who should show up but George, who protected himself with the sign of the cross and slew the dragon.  Everyone needs a friend like George.

In some tellings of the story, the dragon is a crocodile, and in others, the dragon is symbolic for the devil, and George is slaying the enemies of God.  Whatever the case, George’s reputation grew extensively.

He was born in Libya and served many years as a Roman soldier and officer.  Diocletian became Emperor, which was good for George because they became friends, but when the persecution of Christians under Diocletian began, George – despite the Emperor’s pleading – refused to renounce his faith and was eventually put to death.

He is the Patron Saint of many things and places, but important to us is that he is the Parton Saint of England.  Legend has it that he killed a dragon in Berkshire, England, but most likely he became known to the English through the crusaders who brought back with them the honoring of so noble a man.  His fame grew following the battle of Agincourt (1415) when many claimed to have seen George fighting alongside the English and his renown was solidified when Shakespeare had Henry V (in the play of the same name) cry out, “The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”

shieldAs George is the Patron Saint of England, then we as Episcopalians also have ties to him, which are most evident in the shield of the Episcopal Church.  The red cross on the white background is the Cross of St. George, indicating our association with the Church of England.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”  Whether fighting dragons or crocodiles, George’s life and his rebuke of a hateful Emperor demonstrate to us what it means to be courageous in the face of the enemy and also that the dragon who comes against us all can be defeated.

Let us pray: Heroic Catholic soldier and defender of your Faith, you dared to criticize a tyrannical Emperor and were subjected to horrible torture. You could have occupied a high military position but you preferred to die for your Lord.  Obtain for us the great grace of heroic Christian courage that should mark soldiers of Christ. Amen

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