May 6, 2024

Homily One for the Feast of Saint George (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 23, 1947)

"The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them." (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1)

How was this torment not felt by the Holy Great Martyr George the Trophy-Bearer? How were the torments not felt of multitudes of martyrs?

From the lives of the saints it is known that there were many martyrs, including Saint George the Trophy-Bearer, who did not feel their torments.

This may seem paradoxical, impossible to you, but it is a fact that does not only concern the martyrs. This fact is quite well known in history: when in the Middle Ages they subjected to torture the unfortunate women, whom they considered to be witches, then it was often observed that during the torture these unfortunate women fell into a state of bliss. At first they cried out, they were tortured, they suffered, then when the tortures intensified, when they became unbearable, their faces lit up with the feeling of bliss, they did not feel the tortures.

The great saint, whose memory we now celebrate, Saint George the Trophy-Bearer, was not affected by the torment, he himself did not feel the tortures.

In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster and their going from us to be their destruction, but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them" (Wis. of Sol. 3:2-6).

For the Lord Jesus Christ, only their determination to suffer for His holy name the most terrible and horrible torments was enough, the tortures themselves were of no particular importance. Because the Lord knew that they had the determination to endure these tortures. Because the Lord values our intentions, sincere intentions, no less than our works.

We know from the lives of many saints that when they were led to death, they died before the execution. This is what happened to the wife of the emperor Diocletian, one of the most ruthless persecutors of Christians. Amazed by the extraordinary miracles of the Great Martyr George, which accompanied his martyrdom, the emperor's wife, Alexandra, believed in Christ with all her heart and confessed her faith before her merciless husband. And Diocletian did not hesitate before handing her over to execution.

After the terrible tortures, to which she was subjected for the confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, after Diocletian was convinced of her unyielding attitude, he ordered her to be beheaded and dragged out of the city to be executed. But Alexandra on the way got exhausted, sat down on a stone by the side of the road and died.

Thus they died, while they had not been subjected to the last torments and execution, many martyrs died of natural death. So it happened with many others, who confessed the name of Christ. The Church has classified them in the category of holy martyrs.

The words of Holy Scripture were realized in many saints and great martyrs and in the apostles themselves. "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them."

They were not touched by the torments and they will certainly refrain from torments in eternal life, in eternal blessedness, which they they were found worthy of with their devotion to Christ. In the eyes of the torturers they often looked dead, but they were alive. It often happened, during the terrible tortures of the martyrs, that they were already considered dead, but the Lord healed them.

This is what happened to the Holy Great Martyr George: he already looked dead, he was completely exhausted. They believed that he had died in the prison where they threw him and were very surprised to learn that he was alive. As the apostle Paul said: "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).

And so these words of Holy Scripture were fulfilled in many martyrs and confessors, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself lifted them up and they are in eternal life, in eternal joy, they were not put to death, as people thought.

The Lord tests His saints with terrible torments, as gold burns in the furnace, because what I told you about did not always happen, that the saints did not feel the torments. Most of them felt it and suffered the horrors with patience. God tested them like gold in the furnace and accepted them as a burnt offering.

Like gold in the furnace, Saint George was tested and became a perfect sacrifice to God.

"In the time of their visitation they will shine forth and will run like sparks through the stubble" (Wis. of Sol. 3:7).

During the time of universal retribution in the Great Judgment, Saint George will also shine like a bright spark, which runs through the stubble. And already now he stands before the Throne of God.

The Holy Great Martyr George endured terrible torment at a very young age. He came from a glorious, aristocratic family, his father, also a Christian, became a holy martyr.

He was an attendant at the court of Diocletian, he had an extremely handsome face, a masculine stature, he possessed very great military bravery and prowess, and he was placed by Diocletian in a very high position; at first he was a tribune and then he became a count, which is the highest military office; he became famous, after he was glorified in battles. He was in the retinue of the emperor, he always accompanied him.

And Saint George despised all this; he preferred the glory of Christ to earthly glory, to the glory of Diocletian. With amazing boldness he reviled the impiety of Diocletian, with his prayer he overthrew the idols in the temple, he performed amazing miracles in the court, which attracted many to Christ.

He offered himself as a sacrifice to God at a young age, when a lasting bright future opened before him.

May what I am now going to read from the book o the Wisdom of Solomon be a great comfort to those who lose their sons and daughters in the prime of their lives. "The righteous, even if they die early, will be at rest" (Wis. of Sol. 4:7).

"Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years, for his soul was pleasing to the Lord; therefore he hastened him from the midst of wickedness. Yet the peoples saw and did not understand or take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect and that he watches over his holy ones" (Wis. of Sol. 4:13-15).

We know that not only were there many such youths, but also children and adolescents who died before they had even reached youthfulness, who in a short time fulfilled what others could not fulfill in a long time, because these souls were pleasing to the God and that is why the Lord hastened to take them out from among the multitude of the ungodly.

And men saw and did not suspect that grace and mercy were with His saints.

All this was fulfilled in Saint George and at a young age he became one of the shining stars of the ecclesiastical firmament and shines before God with his unprecedented faith and devotion to Christ.

Know, remember that the Church is alive and fighting and the gates of Hades will never be able to tear it down, precisely because there is a great multitude of people similar to the Holy Great Martyr George, because there is a huge choir of martyrs who shed their blood for Christ, who sacrificed to God the most priceless thing, their very life.

The blood of the martyrs, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure of the Church of Christ, it is what protects our Church.

And next to the martyrs are the confessors, who endured suffering and torment for the sake of Christ, but not until the final death.

Let us honor with all our hearts, very deeply, the memory of the saints, martyrs, great martyrs and confessors who suffered for Christ. Let us imitate their faith in Christ, their fearlessness in the face of the torments, with which they threatened them. Let's remember the words of Christ, which we must carry in our hearts: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Matt. 10:28).

Fear the devil, who can destroy your soul. Fear nothing for the sake of Christ's name.

Let us be faithful to Christ, as the Holy Great Martyr George and the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra were!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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