Thursday, November 3, 2016

Synaxarion for the Dedication of the Temple of Saint George in Lydda


On the third of this month [November] we celebrate the Dedication of the Temple of the Holy Great Martyr George in Lydda, namely the translation and placement of his holy body.

Verses

Now creation celebrates the dedication, 
Of your Temple O Martyr and the placement of your relic.

The glorious Great Martyr of Christ George was a Cappadocian according to the heritage of his father, and a Palestinian according to that of his mother. Having a good character and upbringing, and being of noble roots (his parents stood above their ancestors in nobility and piety), he was also brilliant and fit for battles. Wherefore even from the time when his beard began to grow, he was made by Emperor Diocletian a tribune of Numerian. Later he became a count due to his unconquerable bravery. Until then however he hid the fact that he was a Christian. When the Saint reached twenty years of age, his father died during the struggle he underwent on behalf of piety. Therefore he took his mother and departed from Cappadocia, and went to her homeland in Palestine, where she had much property and an inheritance.

After his mother died, the Saint inherited a lot of money and wealth. Therefore he took all the money and lovingly went to Diocletian in order to receive a greater office. But when he saw with how much madness the tyrant came against the Christians, he decided to distribute the money he had with him to the poor and hungry, in order to proclaim before Diocletian and the entire senate that he was a Christian. This he did. Having speedily distributed his money, and liberating his servants, he then made out a will concerning his wealth in Palestine. Then on the third day of the unbelieving senate gathering (for Diocletian and those with him called for a senate meeting with the purpose of erasing Christianity from the world), then the great George went of his own accord and stood in the midst of the senate, at a time when Diocletian was present. And there he brilliantly proclaimed Christ as true God and the Son of God, speaking openly about Christianity and piety. Wherefore the brave combatant for Christ was given over to various and immeasurable tortures. With a spear he was stabbed in his stomach, and underwent trials many times with the wheel and cowhide. He was also put in a pit of unquenchable fire, but because he was kept unharmed after all these by divine grace, he drew Diocletian's wife Alexandra to faith in Christ, and he also converted a farmer named Glykerios after he raised his cow from the dead. And we can simply say that he converted an innumerable amount of people to Christ through the various miracles he performed in the name of Christ. Having done these things, he was cast into prison bound in iron. That night Christ appeared to him while he slept, and evangelized to him the good things he was to inherit.

When the Saint awoke with joy, he thanked God, and pleaded with the prison guard to allow his servant to enter his prison cell, since he waited outside (it is he who authored with exactitude the sufferings of the Saint). The servant therefore entered the cell, and seeing his master bound, he venerated him, falling at his feet weeping. The Saint raised him up, telling him to rejoice. He then narrated to him the vision he saw. And then he ordered him, that after his death he was to take his body and go to Palestine. Also he was to take with him his will which he wrote before he bore witness. He also gave orders to him to always have within his soul the fear of God. The servant promised to keep his orders, and then left the cell.

The next day the Martyr was again brought for trial, and after not being persuaded to sacrifice to Apollo, through his prayers he destroyed the idols within the temple, and then he was beheaded by the sword. The servant of the Saint then took his most honorable relic, together with his will, and went to Palestine, where he reverently and honorable buried his sacred body, along with other Christians. Thus he was satisfied with having completed everything he was ordered to do by the Saint.

Not much time passed, and piety shined forth, and the renowned Constantine the Great, the emperor and equal to the apostles, reigned. Then the pious who loved the the Holy Martyr George took the opportunity to build a most-graceful and most-beautiful Temple for him in Lydda, and they translated from an unknown place, where the much-contested body of the Martyr was to be found previously, worthy of much light, and they treasured it in this newly built Temple. And with the placement of this relic the dedication of the Temple took place, on this the third day of the month of November. The relic of the Saint then gushed forth an ever-flowing spring of miracles, for those who approached him with faith.* Thus God glorifies those who glorify Him. From that time the holy Church of Christ annually celebrates on this day, the translation of the relic of Saint George, to the glory and praise of Christ our true God, as well as His Great Martyr George.**

Notes:

* A church built in Lydda during the reign of Emperor Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to "a man of the highest distinction", according to the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George the Great Martyr, who is annually celebrated on April 23rd. This consecration occurred on November 3rd. By the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to the Saint in Lydda (called Lod) was in existence. Remains of this church can be seen in sections of the adjacent mosque. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). In 1268 the Mamelukes built a mosque on the ruins of the church; it was named El-Omari, as other mosques that were built on top of ruined churches. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem received permission from the Ottoman authorities to build a church on the site of the previous basilica. The Ottoman authorities stipulated, that part of the plot be made available for a mosque. The reconstruction of the church started in 1870 and was completed by 1893. It was built over the ruins of the Crusader church from 1191. On its south side is the Great mosque (El-Khidr). The current Church of Saint George incorporates only the northeast corner of the older basilica. The prayer hall of the adjacent mosque contains a column that once stood in the nave of the basilica. The church contains the sarcophagus of Saint George.

** This sacred relic also exudes a beautiful fragrance and healing myrrh till this day.


Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone 
Liberator of captives, defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings, O trophy-bearer, Great Martyr George, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved. 

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone 
As we the faithful flee for refuge unto thee, O George, and thy protection and thy speedy help, we now entreat, O prizewinner of Christ Saviour, that we who hymn thee be delivered from the snares laid by the enemy and from every kind of peril and adversity, that we all may cry: Rejoice, O holy Great Martyr George.

Church of Saint George in Lydda

Ruins of the Church of Saint George in Lydda from 1714

Ruins of the Church of Saint George in Lydda from 1874

Tomb of Saint George, c. 1900

Church of Saint George in Lydda today with the adjacent Great Mosque

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