St George: Loyalty to Christ
“…the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (NRSV, 1 Samuel 16:7)
St George, the Patron Saint of England, was a brilliant young officer in the Roman army whose ability had brought him to the attention of his Emperor and Commander-in-chief, Diocletian. It was this savage tyrant who launched the most violent and sustained persecution which the Church endured in the first centuries of its existence.
It began in the year 303 AD with the posting of notices on all church doors ordering the destruction of the buildings and the handing over of the Holy Scriptures. St George, who was a Christian born of Christian parents, tore down the notice on the door of the principal church in the city of Nicomedia in Asia Minor. As Nicomedia was the headquarters and seat of government of the Emperor, George was sent to Diocletian himself who was in Palestine at the time.
Diocletian was reluctant to lose the services of so promising an officer, and tried to bribe him to give up his religion by offering him honours and promotion. When George refused, the Emperor resorted to torture but that proved as useless as bribery and finally the saint was beheaded on April 23rd which that year was Good Friday. As with many other saints, his heroic fight against evil was later symbolically represented as a life and death contest with a dragon.