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George is the patron saint of England by declaration of King Edward II in 1347. He is remembered as a martyr, having given his life in witness to the gospel during the persecution of the church in the early fourth century. Very few details of his life have survived and his story is replete with legend. By the middle of the ﬁfth century he was commemorated in local calendars and historical records of the period.
George was a soldier by vocation, serving as an ofﬁcer in the Roman army. It is said that he “gave his goods to the poor, and openly confessed Christianity before the court.”
George’s initial notoriety may well have resulted from his faithfulness and witness to Christ during the Diocletian persecutions, 303-304, a particularly destructive period through which the church suffered.
Much of the legend of George dates back only to the eighth century, and more of it developed in the centuries that followed. The infamous story of George slaying the dragon, probably developed from Greek mythology, is not associated with him until the twelfth century. The inclusion of George’s story in the thirteenth century manuscript, The Golden Legend, accounts for his growing popularity in the Middle Ages.
In the twelfth century George was recognized as the patron saint of soldiers and he was called upon in support of those who would ﬁght in the Crusades. The shield under which his soldier’s fought became a symbol of national pride for the English and in time was adapted into the national ﬂag. Interestingly, the “St. George’s Shield”—white shield emblazoned with a red cross—is the basis of the Episcopal Church ﬂag and seal.
I Almighty God, who didst commission thy holy martyr George to bear before the rulers of this world the banner of the cross: Strengthen us in our battles against the great serpent of sin and evil, that we too may attain the crown of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Almighty God, you commissioned your holy martyr George to bear before the rulers of this world the banner of the cross: Strengthen us in our battles against the great serpent of sin and evil, that we too may attain the crown of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of Lent (I)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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