The legend of St George tells how this Cappadocian knight was riding through Libya and came to a city called Sylene. In a swamp by the city lived a huge, fearsome beast which terrorized the citizens unless they fed it. As all their sheep had been eaten by this beast, they were obliged to feed it human beings. These were chosen by lot, and as George rode up the king's daughter was about to be sacrificed.
George promised to slay the dragon if the whole city would accept Jesus as Lord and be baptized. The citizens agreed, and the saint killed the beast with his lance. Four ox-carts were needed to carry its dead body away. And fifteen thousand persons or more were baptized.
So strange are the legends that have gathered round the name of St George that sceptics have argued even more that he never existed at all. It is very likely that he was a Roman soldier at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth century. He is said to have been raised to the rank of military tribune of the imperial guards. Once when the emperor was present, heathen priests were consulting the entrails of animals to foretell the future. Those Christians among the guards made the sign of the cross on their foreheads. The emperor was extremely angry and ordered them to be flogged and dismissed. He then sent out an edict ordering the Christian clergy to make sacrifices to pagan gods. Seeing a copy of this edict posted on the door of the emperor's palace, George tore it down. He was imprisoned, tortured and put to death.
Even this story is a considerably embroidered one. But we can be reasonably certain that George did suffer martyrdom around the year 303, and a strong tradition says that this took place at Lydda in Palestine.
From A Calendar of Saints -
The Lives of the Principal Saints of the Christian Year
O Lord God of Hosts,
who didst give grace to thy servant George
to lay aside the fear of man and to confess
Thee even unto death, grant that we,
and all our countrymen who bear office in the world,
may think lightly of earthly place and honour,
and seek rather to please the Captain of our Salvation
who has chosen us to be his soldiers,
to whom with Thee and the Holy Spirit
be thank and praise for all the armies of Thy saints,
now and evermore.
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