For St George's feast day today we had an evening Missa Cantata with Mass II and the chants from the gradual. At Communion, the schola sang a version of the Salve Festa Dies with references to St George. I am told that it dates from the battle of Agincourt. UPDATE: The hymns can be found at this post: Hymns for St George.
After Mass, we had time to go to the Robin Hood and Little John in Bexleyheath which is a fine traditional English pub serving excellent ale and, on this occasion, sort of canapés of yorkshire pudding and roast beef. They know us well from Saturday Missae Cantatae which they sometimes attend.
For what it is worth, here is my short sermon for the feast day:
Great Saint George, our patron help us,
In the conflict be thou nigh;
Help us in that daily battle
Where each one must live or die.
As far as we know, St George was a high-ranking solider in the army of the emperor Diocletian. At that time, Christians were growing every stronger, their demographic power increased by opposition to abortion and contraception, their “herd immunity” increased by their charitable contact with the sick whom they cared for. Subjected to horrible torments, St George was decapitated on account of hatred of the faith. The exceptional nature of his torments led the Christians of the East to call him the Megalomartyr – the great martyr.
He is patron saint of many countries: we have shared that grace since his standard was worn by the Christian crusaders fighting against Muslim aggression in the Holy Land.
Today we are not asked to offer incense to pagan gods or to the effigy of the emperor. We face perhaps a more insidiously harmful trend which is ordered to the obliteration of Christian faith: modernism or relativism, the denial of absolute truth with particular reference to religious truth. We may be permitted to teach “what Christians believe” but increasingly we are pressured not to teach that belief as something that is true. Rather it is to be seen as one of a range of possible beliefs as one might choose from a menu in a restaurant or from an array of mobile telephones. Be clear about this: such rejection of truth is a rejection of Christianity, a rejection of Christ. Remember Our Lord’s dialogue with another Roman:
Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice. (Jn 18.37)Remember too, Pilate’s dismissive answer, worthy of the militant secularists of our own time:
Pilate saith to him: What is truth? (Jn 18.38)A common theme for reflection on the feasts of martyrs is to say that we may not face torture and death but we do face suffering for Christ. Although this is true, I would like to take another approach.
One of the key lessons of the Great Martyr is the importance of truth, the truth of Jesus Christ and the truth of the faith of the Holy Catholic Church. Each of us, in our daily prayers, needs to be convinced of this to the point that it changes our life, indeed to the point that it is ultimately the only really important thing in our lives. When we care for our families, when we try to live good lives, when we try to be good priests or religious, it is this one thing that is necessary: that we have a living and active faith in Christ as the one who truly is the eternal Word made flesh, who truly suffered and died on the cross, who truly rose from the dead and is truly present in this Holy Mass today as our sacrament and sacrifice.
As the chorus of our hymn for today reminds us, the daily spiritual battle is where each of us will live or die in terms of the life of our soul. Let us ask St George the great martyr and the patron of our country to assist us in this battle in which he emerged victorious.