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Who is St. George?

Saints and martyrs have been the most exemplary image of the living Holy Bible in action. Any description of Christianity would be remiss if it excluded those faithful, courageous, devoted, and humble followers of Christ who have become our mentors throughout the ages, representing Christianity, the most, in fact, the only powerful and superior religion in the world. This superiority and uniqueness reside in the ability of this religion to flourish, overcome, enlighten, enliven, forgive, and love, despite the hardships manifest in the oppression, enslavement, destruction and ongoing persecutions. If Christian virtues were merely a collection of concepts, it would not appear to be so difficult to embrace them. However, when one understands that these virtues are to be practiced not only on those closest to us, but are to be extended to cover those who specifically hate us vehemently, then one realizes the uniqueness of this religion. With this understanding, those precious saints and martyrs bore the message of Christ upon their heads as the most glorious crown, and some have nurtured the faith even with their own blood.

When people hear the name of St. George, they usually presume that it is the famous St. George, the Prince of Martyrs, whose icon portrays a valiant horseman spearing a dragon. Actually, the lives of the saints recorded in the Synexarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church, celebrate four different saints by the name of St. George: St. George the Prince of Martyrs; St. George of Alexandria, the Martyr; St. George, El-Mezahem, the Martyr; and St. George, the Friend of St. Abraam. While each one of these men contributed astounding leadership through a splendid life of faith in his own right, most of them were also somehow connected to the great martyr, St. George the Prince of Martyrs.

St. George the Prince of Martyrs (Parmoute 23rd) is also known as St. George of Cappadocia, a city in modern-day Turkey. Of all the saints named George, he is the most known. St. George was born in Cappadocia, his father Anastius’ home town but grew up into a gallant man in Lydda, his mother Theopesta’s home town near Bethlehem. After his father’s death, he assumed his father’s influential military rank in the Roman Guard at the age of twenty years. When St. George knew about the Emperor’s edict of idol worshiping and the enslavement of the steadfast Christians who refused to comply, he ransomed them with his own wealth and publicly defended the oppressed and fearful Christians.

Noble and bold, St. George encountered several emperors before facing the worst of them all, the infamous Emperor Diocletian. Though repeatedly tortured, and alternatively enticed with wicked propositions and material temptations, St. George’s faith remained stalwart, ever so confident in the Lord Jesus Christ, who repeatedly healed him from the various wounds and inflictions meant to dissuade him from the truth. St. George’s faith was resilient. While onlookers witnessed his valor in this faith, many became Christians, as well, and others accepted to suffer martyrdom for the sake of the true faith.

The extensive tortures bore by this amazing saint were particularly graphic. In the midst of his pain and suffering, he was known to have performed many miracles, such as raising the dead and curing a mute, deaf and blind boy. In addition, the Lord did not refuse the prayers of this beloved saint who, at the ridiculous demand of Diocletian to bring forth branches and fruits from chairs, entreated and made his request known to Christ, and the Lord answered his prayers.

Frustrated and repeatedly humiliated by the gallantry and perseverance of St. George, Diocletian tried to seduce him by offering to marry his daughter to him. When she was brought to St. George, he prayed the psalms with her and taught her about the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the empress accepted Christ and tried to stop her father from inflicting any more tortures on St. George. Enraged that she had also become a Christian, Diocletian burned her body with a hot comb and ordered her beheading. She, too, received the crown of martyrdom. After that, St. George was forced to drink a cup of poison and squeezed to the point of death. Then, he was to be thrown outside the city to have his life ended. Finally, realizing that nothing could stop this saint from loving and worshiping Jesus Christ, Diocletian ordered to have him beheaded after the most horrendous tortures.

The precious body of St. George was befittingly shrouded and taken to his hometown in Lydda. By the grace of God, the righteous Emperor Constantine who eventually assumed political and executive authority over many regions, proclaimed Christianity to be the official religion throughout all his municipalities. Through his mother’s guidance, and in honor of the martyrs, he ordered the construction of many churches, including St. George’s. Many churches still hold some of his blessed and venerable relics and countless miracles continue to be performed by St. George the Prince of Martyrs even until this day.

St. George of Alexandria the Martyr (Hathor 7th) was the son of a non-Christian, Alexandrian merchant and his maternal uncle was the governor of Alexandria. While attending the feast of the consecration of a church named in the honor of St. George the Prince of martyrs in Lydda and before St. George was born, his father had entreated the prayers of the first for a son. At the age of twenty-five years, after his parents death, St George lived with his unbelieving uncle, the governor. He often spoke with his young female cousin about Christ, monasticism, and many other aspects of the eternal life, where people would be either with Christ in heaven amongst the believers or away from Christ in utter darkness amongst the unbelievers. When she accepted the Christian faith and tried to explain this truth to her stubborn father, he had her beheaded. Blaming St. George for it, he had him beheaded, as well. The governor’s wife, who had grieved the martyrdom of her young daughter, took the body of St. George of Alexandria and had it placed in the same church along with her daughter’s.

St. George, El Mezahem, the Martyr (Paone 19th) is a Christian convert from the Islamic religion. His original name was El-Mezahem, but was changed to Girgis (George) after conversion and baptism. Before Conversion, St. George’s Christian mother used to occasionally take him to church with her when he was still a young boy. His heart longed to partake of the Holy Eucharist, but his mother explained to him that it was impossible to do so without having first to be baptized. After conversion, he grew up in the faith and married a Christian woman. When the Muslims of the country discovered that, they hunted for him throughout the country, from city to city, until they finally captured him and demanded that the governor turn him over to them. He was not only supported and encouraged by his wife, but also by an angel whom the Lord had sent to strengthen him. Finally, the Muslims took hold of him, had him beheaded, and thrown in a fire. The Lord accepted his pure soul, but did not allow his blessed body to burn. Placed in a barrel and tossed in the ocean, St. George’s blessed body landed safely on an island. A Christian woman took his body, shrouded it with dignity, and placed it in her home until a church was built in his honor.

St. George the Friend of St. Abraam (Pashons 18th) was a shepherd. He was born to Christian parents and grew up in the love and fear of God. At the young age of fourteen, St. George left his home to enter the monastery of St. Makarious. When tempted by the devil, St. George used to use the Holy Scriptures to fight him off. The Lord sent an angel to St. George, who led him to the monastery of Abba Orion. For ten years, he learned the monastic rules under the guidance of a spiritual father, and he observed a very restricted diet of raw vegetables. After that he went to the Baramous Monastery of Scetis to live a life of solitude. At his arrival, he was joined by another blessed monk by the name of Abraam. They journeyed together to the Monastery of St. Makarious, where they met St. John the Archpriest of Scetis. He allowed them to reside in a nearby cell where they could live and worship. St. Abraam departed in this cell and shortly after, at the age of seventy-two, St. George, his beloved friend, also departed to be with the Lord.

May all their prayers and blessings be with us all, and glory to God, forever, Amen.

Bishop Youssef
Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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