No doubt the Book of Revelation inspired the well-known icon of our nation’s patron, Saint George, depicted as the gallant knight slaying the dragon that threatens the damsel in distress. That image is so similar to the description in Revelation chapter 12: the sign in heaven of the woman standing on the moon, and the serpent who is waiting to destroy her child. Likewise, the other well-known image of the Archangel Michael casting the serpent to earth, would be have been used by the early hagiographers to depict the historical Saint George. For almost two thousand years Christians have been inspired by this warrior saint who encourages us in our own fight against evil in our world.
And yet, as we heard in the first reading, heaven is already singing the victory song: Because even in the face of death they would not cling to life; let the heavens rejoice and all who live there.
Those words ‘in the face of death’ are important; for they describe our readiness, and our need to go to the brink. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger believed that the human being is being in the face of death. The common mortality which we all share, along with the horizon and perspective that gives to our shared existence and experience, grounds the sense of concern we need to have for each other; it encourages the richest and deepest resources of our humanity – characteristics that make the human being a noble creature. On the other hand, and as the Church teaches us, the denial of death seems to be wrapped up in what makes our culture so insidiously a culture of death.
Saint George stands in stark contrast to this as an example of the courage we need in order to fight for life in its Easter fullness. Saint George, and indeed all the martyrs, show us that in giving one’s life away, in sacrificing it as Our Lord did in his obedience to the Father, we take it up again as we share in Our Lord’s Resurrection. This truth is shown by those who share the mind of Christ; as Saint Paul says, not in competition and spitefulness, nor in vanity or jealousy, but in self-effacement and looking to another in preference to oneself.
This is the mind that promotes the life of a community, not only here in the Priory but also in the wider Church and in the civil community of our country. It is the mind for which, especially at a time of General Election, we need to pray.
May Saint George pray for us and for our country.