St George Patron of England

St George has had a longer exposure to public honour this year for liturgical reasons. The Nation remembered and celebrated him on his birthday 23rd April while Catholics, Anglicans and perhaps many  other Christian denominations celebrated him on the first free day after The Easter Octave of Celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection from the Dead, which was Monday 27th April this year.

I had a whimsical thought that the Lord may have had a hand in the longer exposure this year given the current attitudes and propaganda swirling around at this time. I refer to that body of learned men and women, objecting to the notion that we are a Christian nation and the racist and discriminatory language of U-Kip’s European election Campaign.

Now St. George is a very interesting personality in regard to both of these issues; let us think first about the depth and strength of the roots of our Christian heritage, admittedly not always a glorious story, nonetheless a consistently sustained one, nourished by the blood of millions prepared to die for their Christian beliefs.

Such a person was George according to tradition his mother was Jewish, his father, Greek and he was born in Palestine. Whether he was born into the Christian faith or adopted it later is not certain. Certainly, he was tortured and killed during the period 245-315 for refusing to renounce his faith and worship Roman gods especially, the Emperor Diocletian himself!

The Greek Church venerates St.George as the greatest of the martyrs. It was during the Crusades in the 13th century that England adopted him as its Patron Saint. We do not of course have sole claim on him. He was widely acclaimed and many countries claim his patronage. He is revered by Muslims also which may have caused him conflicts of interest during the Crusades!

When I think about the letter to our Prime Minister objecting to the claim that we are a Christian country, I am reminded of Christ’s words:

‘I bless you Father Lord of heaven and earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children’ Mt.11:25

As one of the ‘mere children’ I shudder in horror at the memory of the atheistic regimes of the last century. Our value systems stem from the great commandments enshrined in the Law of Moses and summarised by Jesus In response to the question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. ”Matthew 22:36-40

While we cannot claim to be utterly faithful at all times to these commandments, nevertheless we know they are our life line. Cut off from their roots, values deteriorate into self seeking, greed, avarice, the lust for power and control - no matter how noble original intentions. Our Christian roots go very deep, our country and all people of faith need to nourish and sustain them.

With regard to U-Kip and its anti immigration adverts aimed at the weak and disadvantaged. There is a certain comical irony in the fact that St. George has not one drop of English blood in him. He is surely the Icon for all immigrants. We have adopted him, received from him are nourished by his example and the fruits of his virtues. He challenges us to appreciate and welcome difference, teaches us about the richness of diversity, the willingness to receive from the giftedness of others and to reverence all people. He is a perfect antidote to racism and discrimination. So let us raise our hearts if not our glasses to say:

Glory be to the Father Son and Holy Spirit,
Great St George our patron, protect us.
God, bless our gracious Queen.