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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

22 April 2009: Rev’d David Stickland Parish Priest, Buriton

St George: Fact or Fiction?

Tomorrow is St George’s Day, patron saint of England. As a young Scout living in Winchester I remember clearly the well attended parades to the Cathedral and subsequent presentation of awards on the wonderful lawns of the Cathedral Close. His flag has been appropriated by the supporters of the England football team; but who was he?

The references I have found contain the words ‘possibly’ and ‘probably’ and the statement that his historical existence is now generally accepted. George was probably a soldier living in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century. He was martyred at Lydda in about the year 304 and there were churches in England dedicated to him before the Norman Conquest. The story of George and the slaying of the dragon seems to have been a case of mistaken identity. George replaced Edward the Confessor as patron saint of England following the Crusades.

The part of this account on which I wish to focus is the fact that he was martyred. Martyr is derived from the Greek and means witness – George was a witness to his faith. There have been many like him – before and since. An ideal, principle, truth or faith has to be pretty important if one is prepared to die for it. We have just celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was no doubt in the disciples’ minds that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead or why would some of them be prepared to die in defence of a lie?

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