That foreign man, St George

When asked to celebrate the conventual Mass today, St George’s day, I was a little conflicted. For our patron, St Edmund King and Martyr (†869/70), was the original patron of England, St George only being established in that role in 1348. In recent years there have been petitions to the government to restore St Edmund as English patron, to no avail. For not a few among the English, St Edmund is still the rightful patron.

That said, there are many intersections between the two saints. Both were martyrs, both beheaded by the godless in defence of their faith. Edmund was martyred by the Great Heathen Army of the Danes; George was martyred by the far more respectable state apparatus of pagan imperial Rome under Diocletian. Both were thoroughly admirable men in their living. And while St George’s legend has him fighting a dragon, the banner of St Edmund used by the English armies bore a white dragon.

800px-White_Dragon_Flag_of_England.png~original

In our godless world the pairing of these two saints has much to offer. In the east, the Great Heathen Army of Daesh (IS if you must) and other Islamist militants behead faithful Christians to this very day. In the west, secularised godless societies seek to decapitate the Church of Christ by a thousand small cuts.

But perhaps St George has one real resonance today for England. Just as England balks at receiving refugees from Syria—even (especially?) Christian ones—fleeing the bloodthirsty godless, yet its patron saint is not an Englishman, but a Syrian Christian beheaded by a regime as pagan and worldly as ours is today, despite its nominal Christianity. While the issue of security makes the refugee issue difficult (that is, with regard to Muslim refugees), still there is an irony here that should make us stop and think. It is an irony that will be lost on the vast majority of the English today, I suspect.

Some may take me to task for calling Islamists godless, since Muslims, we are told, are “people of the Book”—an empty designation if ever there was one— and that their allah is  identical with our God the Father.

So during Mass, in the gospel reading—John 15:18-21—I noticed something that I had not noticed before. Christ is talking about persecution, the fact that his disciples will be persecuted just as he was persecuted, and on his account, “because they do not know the One who sent me”.

The persecutors of Christians, and so of Christ—who is Son of God and God indeed— “do not know the One who sent me”. They do not know the Father. This is from Christ himself. Allah is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who worship allah “do not know” the Father. Whomever they are worshipping, it is not God.

Naturally, this is no warrant to hate Muslim people, nor to do them any harm whatsoever, just as the Danes murdering St Edmund does not give us warrant to hate the Danes! It is to remind us that the Muslim people are in dire need of the gospel of Christ, and it is our duty to preach it to them in word and deed, and bring them into communion with the true God. The martyrs whom Islamists make among Christians are, now as it has ever been, seed for the Church’s growth. This is true as we speak, in for example, Austria, of all places.

Our greatest gift to Muslims is the gospel, and not the hollow pretence that they are fellow worshippers of the one true God. They are not. But we want them to be. May St George prosper the Church’s mission to Muslims, as well as to Jews and to secularised atheists, for God desires that all “be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).

St George

[UPDATE: There is a follow-up post developing an idea from the comments below.]

10 thoughts on “That foreign man, St George

  1. After St Edmund, St Edward the Confessor was England’s patron, I don’t think it was St George who displaced him. However, there’s no harm in having several patrons. As St Therese said, ‘There is no jealousy in Heaven.’

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    1. Salve. I had heard of St Edward holding this heavenly office, but I did not find much firm, formal, evidence of it. That said, I am happy to delve deeper. As you suggest, the more the merrier (in the archaic sense of the word!).

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    1. Most certainly, though inadequately since they have not accepted the revelation of God as Trinity that we have been granted in Jesus Christ. But with the Jews we DO have common ground on which to stand.

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  2. This is a wonderful look at our history (I say ours collectively as we Americans of European decent, i.e. English heritage do fall under said historical umbrella…but yet as all Christians we look to those saints who have gone before us in martyrdom for the faith ) as well as to the task now at hand—and our task is to be found in both word and deed as you so poignantly remind us—you are right to say that the Muslims do not worship our God and it would behoove us all not to fall for the rubbish put forth to us by our politicians regarding the Muslim faith of its people…that being that it and they are both a religion and a people of peace—one good reading out of the Quran referencing the infidels and their disbelief and the use of the sword should be enough to give any non Muslim pause… excellent as always Father

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      1. yet Father that is what our leaders continue telling us—it is those of us who seem to “see” the truth who are touted as wrong…troubling and frustrating times to be sure—as the water continue to muddy with this crazy presidential race of ours…somedays it is really quite depressing—but I then have to remind myself that no matter the outcome here, or of this sad world of ours, Jesus did over come death and we in turn have as well with Him—
        whew!! 🙂
        Blessings Father for the remainder of the weekend and special blessings to you tomorrow on the Sabbath

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