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April 7, 2016

Saint George, Bishop of Mytilene (+ 821)

St. George of Mytilene (Feast Day - February 1 & April 7)


Although dead Mytilene has you,
As a living great protector George.

Saint George was born around 776 opposite Mytilene on the coast of Asia Minor to wealthy parents, and was perhaps their only child.

When his parents died, George, who was distinguished for his humility and philanthropy, distributed all his inheritance to the poor, and at the age of eighteen he went to a monastery, where he remained for two years. Desiring a greater and more rigorous ascetic life, he left Asia Minor and came to Mytilene, a stranger among strangers, and lived as an ascetic in a cave in complete temperance, fasting and prayer. But it was not long before word of his holiness spread through the island, so that when the Bishop of Mytilene died, all the people asked for George to be their Bishop. Thus at the age of twenty-eight he was ordained Bishop of Mytilene in the year 804.

After nine years of service he was forced to settle cases in Constantinople, at the time of the reign of Emperor Michael (811-813) and Patriarch Nikephoros (806-815). When he arrived, the Ecumenical Patriarch advised George to remain for some time in Constantinople, where he considered his presence and help necessary. Thus George remained in Constantinople for two years (813-815).

Meanwhile, Emperor Leo V the Armenian (813-820) came to the throne, who was an iconoclast and ordered a persecution against iconophiles. The Patriarch together with Bishop George of Mytilene and other revered fathers presented themselves before the Emperor and asked him to cease the persecution against the Church. The Emperor not only was adamant, but he condemned to exile the Patriarch and Bishop George, and Bishop George for his "outspokenness" to the Emperor, was even ordered to be flogged with a hundred lashes.

George was exiled to a barren island of the Propontis. There he continued his ascetic life and endured unimaginable hardships, privations and pains, living only on wild greens.

Soon after Christians began to visit him there to hear his teachings, confess and be healed of their sicknesses. Recorded miracles of the Saint at this time are the healing of a demon possessed person, a deaf person, a blind person and more. Because of his many miracles, he became known as a "bearer of signs" (σημειοφόρο), namely a wonderworker.

Not too long after, however, due to his hardships, he lost his health, and after six years where he spent his exile, Saint George died at the age of forty-five, on 7 April 821.

When Methodios became Patriarch (842-846), the Christians of Mytilene went to the place of the exile of their Bishop, where they took his relics and brought them back to Mytilene. Very early his relics were seen to be a "source of healing", and he was viewed as a Saint.

As for what became of the relics of Saint George over the passage of time, no one knows, but originally it is believed they were brought to "Tria Kyparissia" (Sari Baba), near the Chapel of Saint John the Forerunner. Since the eighteenth century his right hand is preserved in Mytilene, and praised in his Divine Service as follows: "Your sacred hand is a source of inexhaustible healing to your flock." "The Church celebrates today your revered dormition, hierarch of Christ, sign-bearer George, we venerate your all-revered hand." There is reason to believe that his hand is currently in the Church of Saint George the Trophy-Bearer in Skalochori, enclosed in a silver casing which says "Agios Giorgis".

Saint George is also celebrated on February 1st, with his brothers Symeon the New Stylite and David the Monk.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou wast fruitful with the grace of the Spirit like a meadow planted by God, O sacred High Priest of the Mysteries. Thou didst cultivate the souls of the faithful and refresh them with Living Water. O Venerable Father George, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou didst shine on the world like the sun, O holy and venerable George: inspired initiate of the sacred Faith, thou didst enlighten thy disciples.