Today we remember St. George, Soldier and Martyr, Patron of England and many, many other places, including the Holy Land. He was from Lod, a town near the Tel Aviv airport, where there’s a Greek Orthodox church named for him. He is so familiar in popular Muslim piety that he has a nickname: Al Khader, which means the green one—no one seems to know why. When some disaster happens, Muslims might say Ya hala’ Al Khader! Help us now, St. George! And at Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, there’s a lively annual festival of St. George which involves visiting his shrine at Al Khader, a nearby village named for him. Well into the 20th century Christians, Muslims and even Jews visited this shrine.
There is something about St. George that strikes a universal chord. We see him on horseback, in full armor, slaying a dragon with a sword, protecting a damsel; he is an archetype of the battle between good and evil, in which good ultimately triumphs.
Enemy: someone who hates another; someone who attacks or tries to harm another; something that harms or threatens someone or something; a group of people (such as a nation) against whom another group is fighting a war. Upon hearing this definition from the Webster Merriam Dictionary, ask yourself: Who is my enemy? Who hates me? Who is trying to attack or harm me, my family, or my community? I think most of us could think of someone or some group of people in which we could attach the definition of “enemy.” There are those of us who have experienced violence first hand or have seen another attacked or chastised by an aggressor. Others of us may only know our enemy at a distance; for instance in the social media paradigm: Who on your ‘friends’ list stands opposite you in the Duck Dynasty debate? It would be easy to see this as petty, but don’t underestimate the power of words to inflict violence and pain on those who are considered the enemy. Seeds of physical violence often germinate in the soil of language before moving to weapons that can do physical harm. Adolf Hitler certainly knew this. So, who is your enemy?
We remember today a soldier named George who lived in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century. He was killed, not in service to the emperor Diocletian but rather martyred as a soldier of Christ. He became known throughout the Eastern Church as “The Great Martyr.”