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April 23, 2017

Homily on Saint George the Trophy-Bearer (Metr. Augoustinos Kantiotes)

By Metropolitan Augoustinos Kantiotes

(From a homily in the Holy Church of Saint George Lakkias, April 23rd, 1968)

Today is the feast of one of the greatest martyrs of our faith, of St. George the Trophy-bearer. This feast coincides with the most beautiful season. And, as our church chants today, let us run to the fields to pick flowers and weave wreaths to crown the hero of our Christian faith.

But to pick flowers is the easiest thing. We must do something else today, something higher and greater. What is this? We must get to know who this St. George was. And through this, I will try to give you a short answer.

The homeland of St. George was Asia Minor. He was born in the area of Caesarea, and was a compatriot with St. Basil the Great. His parents were rich and noble. His father was martyred for Christ while St. George was still small in his cradle. His mother, who was only 20 years old then, was one of those mothers who believed in God. Because of this, she did not enter into a second marriage, like many do today, whose husbands have not even decomposed yet in the grave, when they are looking for a new man. No! In Asia Minor, there was one marriage, one and only. Like the birds, where if you kill one of a pair of mates, the other remains until the end crying in its cage. The same as then. I don't say that those who enter a second marriage sin, but that the primary marriage is the one which is blessed by God, the Holy Trinity, the All-Holy Spirit.

Therefore, his mother remained a widow. Are you listening you women, are you listening you men? These feasts did not occur so that we can eat and have a good time. They occurred so that we might live like the Saints. Then St. George blesses us and is with us.

The young widow had George when she was young. And together with her milk, she raised him and formed him. Blessed therefore is the mother. Behind every Saint is a mother. And behind St. George is a mother, who took him to her chest, and together with her milk, nursed him on the faith, the faith in Christ.

George, the only son of the widow of the martyr, grew and discerned his inclinations. Early he decided to enlist and become a soldier. He joined the military, therefore. He was distinguished as a soldier and as a general. He was first in battles. He had the heart of a lion. Thus he reached the rank of soldier, and even higher, of commander.

But St. George, beyond military metals, had God. Because above everything else is God. Later, everything else comes as well. And if the faith in God is endangered, we must be ready to sacrifice metals and ranks and positions and staffs and miters and everything. A thousand times a monk on the Holy Mountain would die rather than betray Orthodoxy. A thousand times an honored soldier [would die] rather than a soldier who does not believe. A thousand times a villager who has God inside of him [would die], instead of an atheist scientist. A thousand times a worker or farmer that had God inside of him, instead of the riches of the world. This is our holy faith. Our Church does not come from the great and strong of the day, it is founded on the faith of the humble and down-trodden.

The hour of St. George's trial came. It was the time of the final persecution of the first centuries. On the throne of Rome was one of the wildest beasts, the Emperor Diocletian (284-304). He had wild hate against the Christians. Because of this he ordered that whoever was a Christian, should loose their rank, and if they remained in the faith, they would be put to death.

When the order arrived, George's hour had come. Before everyone, he confessed and said: “I am a Christian, and above the Emperor, I have Christ!”

Diocletian ordered him to be seized. They removed his metals, they took his weapons, and they threw him bound into prison. From the heights to the depths! But he had joy and exaltation.

Should I now relate his martyrdoms? They are many. Whoever wishes to, read the Synaxarion to see. In short I will tell you. They beat his stomach with an iron rod. Afterwards, they put on him an iron helmet which around the inside had bloodletting nails, and they let them cut into the head of the Saint. His flesh was torn and the ground was covered [in blood]. Then they made him wear iron shoes with nails and forced him to run. Then, they put him in a pit of lime, to dissolve him. But the lime he conquered, and the iron he conquered, and everything else. This is not strange. Christ said this: Do not fear, you will tread upon scorpions and serpents, and not a hair from your head will fall, unless God desires it (cf. Luke 10:19, 21, 18, Matthew 10:29).

After these, outside of Caesarea, there was a temple of idols full of statues. They seized St. George therefore, and took him there, that he might sacrifice. He appeared with the face of an angel. He looked at the idols, and said with a loud voice: "In the name of Jesus the Nazarene, I ask you, O statues and idols, what are you?" And they responded: "We are not gods, but demons!" Then the Saint prayed, and immediately an earthquake struck the temple, and the statues fell and broke into pieces and dust.

And only this? And the other miracle of St. George is wondrous. Outside of Caesarea, in a ravine, there was a spring of beautiful water, but no one dared to approach it, because near there was a great dragon, a gigantic serpent, which would come out and eat men and beasts. St. George approached the spring with his spear. The beast growled, exited with speed and opened its huge mouth to swallow him. But St. George -- let the faithless disbelieve, for we believe -- what did he do? He pierced it within its bowels and the beast was torn apart and died. Because of this you see St. George in icons depicted on horseback with his spear, which on its tip has the Cross of the Lord, in order to kill the dragon.

These things seem unbelievable today. People of the world perceive these as myths. But we know that St. George did not only this, but things thousands of times higher occur. History is full of miracles worked by the Saints of our faith, with the power of Christ. We have a living faith, totally alive, and we must love it and devote ourselves wholly to it.

This is, therefore, my beloved, the life of the Saint in short. Because of this, St. George is one of the most beloved Saints.

One more thing I want to tell you, and I'll stop. We saw the fearsome dragon which was at the spring, and did not allow anyone to refresh themselves. But besides that dragon, which St. George killed with his spear and with the Cross, in our days first and foremost, another dragon appears much worse than that dragon which St. George killed. And that worse dragon, which chokes all of mankind and endangers with the greatest destruction, is atheism, godless materialism. With this dragon, our small country must struggle heroically, to not fall into its mouth.

Because of this, even though others might betray their faith and their ideals, you poor children, the heroic children of the Church and the fatherland, remain faithful to God, and struggle with bravery, chest to chest, for everything that is most-holy of our land.

With the help of St. George, we will go forward, we will overcome the obstacles.

I pray that you remain fixed and immovable in the faith, through the intercessions of St. George, and all the Saints. Amen.