Message from Fr Hugh
Tomorrow is St. George’s Day, which has only comparatively recently become a big event in England. I am not sure that this is a good thing as it can move from patriotism to nationalism to jingoism to xenophobia very quickly. But at its best it encourages us to dwell on what is good about our country and there is much that is. What is good to remember is that St. George was a foreigner. He came from the Middle East as far as we know. He was a Roman soldier who travelled widely. He became a patron of many countries at the time of the crusades, and was seen as the epitome of chivalry by many knights, famously, if a little legendarily, rescuing the maiden from the dragon. Chivalry may often have been more of an ideal than a way of life, but at its heart was living a good life and serving others, defending the weak. He is treated as a martyr in Islamic tradition as well, and one who lived with people who knew the disciples.
As the patron saint of our parish, the other patron being the Holy Trinity, what can we learn from him? Firstly that he lived in times when where you came from was less of an issue. As part of the universal Church, borders, boundaries, assessment of others on a ‘use’ basis, can never be right. The figure of St. George stands, or rides, in defiance of any such narrow vision of our world. Also, however sorry we may feel for the dragon, St. George represents campaigning against and defeating what is not right, ‘hungering and thirsting for righteousness’ as the Beatitudes say. In the legend it is of course the damsel in distress he saves, but she represents all those in need, the poor, the disabled, the weak, whoever it is that finds themselves at the mercy of powers around them, those without a voice. Then St. George meets his death refusing to deny his faith. Given many a chance to go back to his old beliefs and be safe, he chooses his faith and continues to speak out.
In these times it can be easy to forget that much is hidden by the current crisis which needs to be remembered. There are long-standing injustices and inequalities to which we can be tempted to say, ‘Well, we will deal with that later.’ But we have to be alert to the suffering of others and speak out, even if it is unpopular. There is always a tendency to say, ‘We need to look after ourselves first.’ Natural, but not the line St.George would have taken. Let us ask for his intercession in these times, that we may have his courage, his faith.
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