|St. George the Great Martyr (Feast Day - April 23)|
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
Every spring, together with the "feast of feasts and festival of festivals", the bright-bearing Resurrection which is a spiritual spring, "the spring of Grace", Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate the memory of a great martyr of our Church, Saint George the Trophy-Bearer (April 23 or the second day of Pascha if this date falls before). "Behold, the spring of Grace has risen, the Resurrection of Christ has shined upon all, and George the Martyr shines with it, on this all-celebratory and light-bearing day."
Nafpaktos has a special reason to celebrate his memory brilliantly, since it possesses a most-beautiful church that honors his name and is built on a hill with a panoramic view of the city, the surrounding region, the Corinthian Gulf and the Achaean mountains.
As is known, Saint George was a native of saint-bearing Cappadocia and lived towards the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century. He was a Senior Officer in the Roman Army and was honored for his distinguished valor and bravery. Above all, however, he was a "brave soldier of Jesus Christ, who shamed the tyrants and became an imitator of His Passion".
By the Grace of God that "resided" in his sanctified existence, he also did many miracles. When he was arrested by the pagans, Magnentios, the second in command to the King, asked him to raise a dead person who had died many years prior, to show that his faith was true. By his prayer the Saint raised him and then Magnentios venerated the Saint, glorifying the divinity of Christ and at the same time made an awesome confession. He said that before Christ he lived as if he suffered in hell because he worshiped idols. Many pagans who saw the miracle and heard the confession believed in Christ.
For the people of God however miracles are not something surprising or paradoxical, but they are very natural, because for God nothing is impossible and miracles are not what we should be looking for in life. The Saints did not ask God to show them miracles, but rather to give them repentance. The aim is theosis, which is the purpose of our life. This is communion with God, or the vision of God, to which we are led by repentance and the purification from our passions. "Let us purify our senses, and we shall behold Christ, radiant with the unapproachable light of the Resurrection, and shall hear Him saying clearly, Rejoice, as we sing the hymn of victory."
The struggle and effort of man which is done within the realm of the Church, together with "asceticism in grace", to transform his passions and live in communion with God, and thus taste divine Grace, gives meaning to his life. His life acquires meaning and purpose in everything he does, in his livelihood and profession and whatever other work of his, all are included in this purpose and perspective. Today many, especially young people, are led astray and enter into the margins of life, because they can't find any meaning or any purpose in their lives. Every day drugs cut the thread of life from young people, who should be full of life and have a zest for creating. There can be many causes for this straying, but it is primarily due to the lack of purpose and meaning in life, according to the testimony of many young people who are tangled up in drugs. The contribution of the Church is great in preventing and suppressing drug use, by giving meaning and content to life. Every Parish, as well as every Monastery, when they operate in an Orthodox context, they are a therapeutic community. I know cases of young people who have been entangled in drugs, as well as mental drugs (various habits that can create dependency, as well as heresies), and were able to free themselves and find their way back on the path with the help of sanctified people from Mount Athos, as well as other spiritual people who live and work within the realm of the Church.
The connection of children with the Church is not a darkening or regression, but a love for life. The Orthodox Church is progressive and modern and always relevant. It offers meaning in life and love for life, both in the present and in the future, since life does not end with the cold tombstone of the grave. It offers "life and abundant life".
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΓΙΟΣ ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΣ Ο ΤΡΟΠΑΙΟΦΟΡΟΣ", April 1997. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.