APRIL 23. SAINT GEORGE, MARTYR
St. George was born in Cappadocia, at the close of the third century, of Christian parents. In early youth he chose a soldier’s life, and soon obtained the favor of Diocletian, who advanced him to the grade of tribune. When, however, the emperor began to persecute the Christians, George rebuked him at once sternly and openly for his cruelty, and threw up his commission. He was in consequence subjected to a lengthened series of torments, and finally beheaded. There was something so inspiriting in the defiant cheerfulness of the young soldier, that every Christian felt a personal share in this triumph of Christian fortitude; and as years rolled on St. George became a type of successful combat against evil, the slayer of the dragon, the darling theme of camp song and story, until “so thick a shade his very glory round him made” that his real lineaments became hard to trace. Even beyond the circle of Christendom he was held in honor, and invading Saracens taught themselves to except from desecration the image of him they hailed as the “White-horsed Knight.” The devotion to St. George is one of the most ancient and widely spread in the Church. In the East, a church of St. George is ascribed to Constantine, and his name is invoked in the most ancient liturgies; whilst in the West, Malta, Barcelona, Valencia, Arragon, Genoa, and England have chosen him as their patron.
Clad in his bright coat of mail, mounted on his war- steed, and spearing the dragon with his lance, George, the intrepid champion of our Risen Jesus, comes gladdening us to-day with his Feast. From the East, where he is known as The great Martyr, devotion to St. George soon spread in the Western Church, and our Christian Armies have always loved and honoured him as one of their dearest Patrons. His martyrdom took place in Paschal Time; and thus, he stands before us as the Guardian of the glorious Sepulchre, just as Stephen, the Protomartyr, watches near the Crib of the Infant God. The Roman Liturgy gives no Lessons on the life of St. George; but, instead, reads to us a passage from St. Cyprian, on the sufferings of the Martyrs. This derogation from the general rule dates from the 5th century. At a celebrated Council held in Rome, in the year 496, Pope St. Gelasius drew up, for the guidance of the Faithful, a list of books, which might or might not be read without danger. Among the number of those that were to be avoided, he mentioned the “Acts of St. George,” as having been compiled by one, who besides being an ignorant man, was also a heretic. In the East, however, there were other “Acts” of the holy Martyr, totally different from those current in Rome; but they were not known in that City. The cultus of St. George lost nothing, in the Holy City, by this absence of a true Legend. From a very early period, a church was built in his honor; it was one of those that were selected as Stations, and gave a Title to a Cardinal; it exists to this day, and is called Saint George in Velabro (the Veil of Gold). Still the Liturgy of to-day’s Feast, by the exclusion of the Saint’s Life from the Office, perpetuates the remembrance of the severe Canon of Gelasius. The Bollandists were in possession of several copies of the forbidden “Acts;” they found them replete with absurd stories, and, of course, they rejected them. Father Papebroke has given us other and genuine “Acts,” written in Greek, and quoted by St. Andrew of Crete. They bring out the admirable character of our Martyr, who held an important post in the Roman army, during the reign of the Emperor Dioelesian. He was one of the first victims of the great Persecution, and suffered death at Nicomedia. Alexandra, the Emperor’s wife, was so impressed at witnessing the Saint’s courage, that she professed herself a Christian, and shared the crown of martyrdom with the brave soldier of Christ. As we have already said, devotion to St. George dates from a very early period. St. Gregory of Tours gives us several proofs of its having taken root in Gaul. St. Clotilde had a singular confidence to the holy Martyr, and dedicated to him the Church of her dear Abbey of Chelles. But this devotion became more general and more fervent during the Crusades, when the Christian armies witnessed the veneration in which St. George was held by the Eastern Church, and heard the wonderful things that were told of his protection on the field of battle. The Byzantine historians have recorded several remarkable instances of the kind; and the Crusaders returned to their respective countries publishing their own experience of the victories gained through the Saint’s intercession. The Republic of Genoa chose him for its Patron; and Venice honoured him as its special Protector, after St. Mark. But nowhere was St. George so enthusiastically loved as in England. Not only was it decreed in a Council held at Oxford, in the year 1222, that the Feast of the Great Martyr should be observed as one of Obligation; not only was devotion to the valiant Soldier of Christ encouraged, throughout Great Britain, by the first Norman Kings; — but there are documents anterior to the invasion of William the Conqueror, which prove that St. George was invoked as the special Patron of England even so far back as the 9th century. Edward III, did but express the sentiment of the country when he put the Order of the Garter, which he instituted in 1330, under the patronage of the Warrior Saint. In Germany, King Frederic III, founded the Order of St. George in the year 1468. St. George is usually represented as killing a Dragon; and, where the representation is complete, there is also given the figure of a Princess, whom the Saint thus saves from being devored by the monster. This favorite subject of both sacred and profane Art is purely symbolical, and is of Byzantine origin. It signifies the victory won over the devil, by the Martyr’s courageous profession of faith; the Princess represents Alexandra, who was converted by witnessing the Saint’s heroic patience under his sufferings. Neither the “Acts” of St. George nor the Hymns of the Greek Liturgy, allude to the Martyr’s having slain a Dragon and rescued a Princess. It was not till after the 14th century, that this fable was known in the West; and it arose from the putting a material interpretation on the emblems wherewith the Greeks honored St. George, and which were introduced among us by the Crusaders.
In honor of our glorious Patron let us, recite the following stanzas, taken from the Menaea of the Greek Church.
Faithful friend of Christ, Prince of his soldiers, most brilliant luminary of earth, star of fairest light, watchful guardian of such as honor thee! Be thou our guardian, O Martyr George. Blessed George, we celebrate thy combat, whereby thou didst destroy the Idols, and bring to nought the manifold errors that were spread by the demons, O most glorious Martyr of Christ. Thou hast been made a member of the heavenly army, O Blessed George! Thou now contemplatest, as far as may be, the Divine Nature. Vouch safe to protect all us who venerate thee. Out of ardent love for Christ, his King, who gave his life for the world’s salvation, the great Soldier George longed to suffer death for his sake. He delivered himself up, for his heart was inflamed with divine zeal. Let us, therefore, full of faith, celebrate his praise in our hymns, as our earnest defender, as the glorious servant of Christ, as the faithful imitator of his Lord, as he that is ever beseeching God to grant to us the forgive ness and pardon of our sins.
The angelic host is in admiration at thy combat, O thou Prince of Warriors! The very King of Angels, struck with admiration, desired thy beauty, O martyr! Therefore did he deign to make thee his companion for ever in his kingdom. Imitating thy Lord, O Martyr, thou cheerfully and. willingly deliveredst thyself up to the battle. Thou didst gain the victory, and didst merit to become the guardian of the Church of Christ, which thou unceasingly defendest and protectest. As the invincible Martyr, as the prize-bearing victor, as the unconquerable defender of the faith, be now an impregnable tower to them that celebrate thy praise, O wise George and protect them from all dangers by thy intercession. Decked with a brilliant crown, beautified with a royal diadem and sceptre, and clad in a purple robe reddened with thy blood, thou, O happy Martyr, now reignest in heaven with the King of the angelic hosts.
Come, all ye people, let us celebrate in festive song the bright and glorious Resurrection of the Lord; let us also festively celebrate the bright memory of George the Martyr: let us crown him, as the invincible soldier, with the flowers of Spring; that by his prayers, we may deserve to be freed from tribulation and sin.
Spring is come; let us exult with joy: the Resurrection of Christ hath shone upon us; let us rejoice in gladness: the Feast of the prize-bearing Martyr George hath appeared, gladdening the Faithful with its brightness; come, then, let us, who love his Feast, celebrate it with our spiritual canticles. For, like a brave Soldier, George stood with manly courage before the tyrants, and covered them with confusion, being an imitator of the Passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He had no pity on the clayey vessel of his body, but wholly transformed it by delivering it to torments, as brass is melted by fire. Thus, then, let us cry out unto him: O prize-bearing Martyr! Beseech God that he save our souls.
Thou, O George, art the glorious type of a Christian Soldier. Whilst serving under an earthly Monarch, thou didst not forget thy duty to the King of heaven. Thou didst shed thy blood for the faith of Christ; and he, in return, appointed thee Protector of Christian Armies. Be their defender in battle, and bless with victory them that fight in a just cause. Protect them under the shadow of thy standard; cover them with thy shield; make them the terror of their enemies. Our Lord is the God of Hosts; and he frequently uses War as the instrument of his designs, both of justice and mercy. They alone win true victory, who have heaven on their side; and these, when on the battle-field, seem to the world to be doing the work of man, whereas it is the work of God they are furthering. Hence are they more generous, because more religious, than other men. The sacrifices they have to make, and the dangers they have to face, teach them unselfishness. What won der, then, that Soldiers have given so many Martyrs to the Church! But there is another warfare, in which we Chris tians are all enlisted, and of which St. Paul speaks, when he says: Labor as a good Soldier of Christ; for no man is crowned save he that striveth law fully. That we have thus to strive and fight during our life, the same Apostle assures us of it in these words: Take unto you the Armor of God, that ye may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the Breast plate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. In all things taking the Shield of Faith, wherewith ye may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the Helmet of the hope of salvation, and the Sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. We, then, are Soldiers, as thou wast, O holy Martyr!
Before ascending into heaven, our divine Leader wishes to review his troops; do thou present us to him. He has loaded us with honors, notwithstanding our past disloyalties; we must, henceforth, prove ourselves worthy of our position. In the Paschal Communion which we have received, we have a pledge of victory; how can we ever be so base, as to permit ourselves to be conquered. Watch over us, O sainted Warrior! Let thy prayers and example encourage us to fight against the dragon of hell. He dreads the Armor we wear; for it is Jesus himself that prepared it for us, and tempered it in his own precious Blood: oh! That, like thee, we may present it to him whole and entire, when he calls us to our eternal rest.
There was a time, when the whole Christian world loved and honored thy memory with enthusiastic joy: but now, alas! This devotion has grown cold, and thy Feast passes by unnoticed by thousands. O holy Martyr! Avenge this ingratitude, by imitating thy divine King, who maketh his sun to rise upon both good and bad; take pity on this world, perverted as it is by false doctrines, and tormented at this very time by the most terrible scourges. Have compassion on thy dear England, which has been seduced by the Dragon of hell, and by him made the instrument for effecting his plots against the Lord and his Christ. Take up thy Spear, as of old; give the Monster battle, and emancipate the Isle of Saints from his slavish yoke. Heaven and earth join in this great prayer; in the name of our Risen Jesus, aid thine own, and once devoted people, to a glorious resurrection! – Dom Prosper Gueranger – The Liturgical Year
ST. GEORGE, MARTYR – Thursday in the Octave of St. Joseph
Semi-Double / Red Vestments
MASS OF ONE MARTYR: PROTEXISTI
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Psalm 42 – Judica me
Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation which is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man. For Thou, O God, art my strength: why hast Thou cast me off? and why go I sorrowful whilst the enemy afflicteth me? Send forth Thy light and Thy truth: they have conducted me and brought me unto Thy holy mount, and into Thy tabernacles. And I will go into the altar of God: to God who giveth joy to my youth. To Thee, O God, my God, I will give praise upon the harp; why art thou sad, O my soul, and why dost thou disquiet me? Hope in God, for I will still give praise to Him: the salvation of my countenance and my God. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam.
I will go in unto the altar of God. To God who giveth joy to my youth.
INTROIT – Psalm 63: 3
Protexisti me, Deus, a convéntu malignántium, allelúia: a multitúdine operántium iniquitátem, allelúia, allelúia. Ps. Exáudi, Deus, oratiónem meam cum déprecor: a timóre inimíci éripe ánimam meam. Gloria Patri.
Thou last protected me, O God, from the assembly of the malignant, alleluia: from the multitude of the workers of iniquity, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. Hear, O God, my prayers, when I make supplication to Thee: deliver my soul from the fear of the enemy Glory be to the Father.
O God, Who dost gladden us by the merits and intercession of blessed George, Thy Martyr, mercifully grant that we, who ask Thy favours through him, may obtain them by the gift of Thy grace. Through our Lord.
2nd COLLECT for the Octave of St. Joseph
O God, who in Thine unspeakable Providence wast pleased to choose blessed Joseph for the Spouse of Thy Most Holy Mother: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom we honor as our protector upon earth. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
EPISTLE – Wisdom 5: 1-5
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom
Then shall the just stand with great constancy against those that have afflicted them and taken away their labours. These seeing it, shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of their unexpected salvation, saying within themselves, repenting, and groaning for anguish of spirit: These are they whom we had some time in derision and for a parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness and their end without honor; behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the Saints.
PASCAL ALLELUIA Psalm 88: 6
Alleluia, alleluia. V. The heavens shall confess Thy wonders, O Lord; and Thy truth in the Church of the saints.
Alleluia. O Lord, Thou halt set on his head a crown of precious stones. Alleluia.
GOSPEL – John 15: 1-7
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. John
At that time, The Lord said to His disciples: I am the true Vine; and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me, that beareth not fruit, He will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, He will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean by reason of the word, which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine: you the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and case him into the fire, and be burneth. If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 88: 6
The Heavens shall confess Thy wonders, O Lord, and Thy truth in the church of the saints, alleluia, alleluia.
Sanctify the gifts we offer Thee, O Lord, and through the intercession of blessed George, Thy martyr, cleanse us by them from the stains of our sins. Through our Lord.
2nd Secret for the Octave of St. Joseph
Supported by the patronage of thy Spouse of Thy Most Holy Mother, we beseech Thy clemency, O Lord, that Thou wouldst make our hearts to despise all earthy things and to love Thee, the true God, with perfect charity: who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
PREFACE OF EASTER
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation that at all times, but more especially at this season, we should extol Thy glory, O Lord, when Christ our Pasch was sacrificed. For He is the true Lamb that hath taken away the sins of the world: Who by dying hath overcome our death, and by rising again hath restored our life. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly hosts, we sing a hymn to Thy glory, saying without ceasing:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dóminus, Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus, qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
COMMUNION – Psalm 63: 11
The just shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall hope in Him: and all the upright in heart shall be praised, alleluia, alleluia.
We beseech Thee, O almighty God, that those whom Thou dost refresh with Thy sacrament, Thou also grant them, by the intercession of blessed George, Thy martyr, to serve Thee, as befits them, with behaviour pleasing unto Thee. Through our Lord.
2nd Postcommunion for the Octave of St. Joseph
We who are refreshed at the fountain of divine blessing, beseech Thee, O Lord our God: that as Thou makest us to rejoice in the protection of blessed Joseph so, by his merits and intercession, Thou wouldst make us to be sharers of heavenly glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth…