George was probably a soldier living in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century. He was martyred at Lydda in about the year 303, the beginning of the persecutions of Diocletian, and became known throughout the East as the The Great Martyr. There were churches in England dedicated to him before the Norman Conquest. The story of his slaying the dragon may be due to his being mistaken in iconography for St Michael, himself usually depicted wearing armour; or it may be a a mistaken identification with Perseus’s slaying the sea monster, a myth also associated with Lydda. George replaced Edward the Confessor as patron aside of England following the Crusade’s when returning soldiers brought back a renewed interest in his cult. King Edward III made George patron of the Order of the Garter, which seems finally to have confirmed his position as England’s patron saint. The possible confusion of George and Michael reminds us of the wonderful east window at St. Thomas, where the armoured St. Michael stands proudly in defeat of all that this evil and gives us hope.
On this St.George’s Day I have celebrated a solitary eucharist in our Benefice Church of St Nicolas and All Saints, in accordance with the Bishop’s instructions. It can be seen on Youtube through the link below. I pray that we all experience a sense of the Risen Christ among us at this time and always.
Today is also Shakespeare’s birthday and it has been suggested that these words from A Midsummer Night’s Dream reflect something of the mystery of the incarnate Word – an echoing truth that upholds and encourages us as we journey through this beautiful, wonderful, mysterious and sometimes frightening world.
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth Glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear?
Act v, lines 12-20
A Prayer for St. George’s Day
Heavenly Father, give us the bravery of St George
to stand up for the truth and the glory of God
that we have seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
Give us the strength to overcome
in our lives and in the world,
all that is contrary to your rule of justice and love.
Help us to be good news to the poor,
proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind;
let the oppressed go free, and
proclaim the good news of God’s favour and Jubilee.