Why do you persecute and torture the Christians? The Word of Father Bishop Macarie Drăgoi, spoken in honor of the Holy Martyr George at the Watch and Liturgy in the Chapel of the Diocesan Center in Stockholm, April 24, 2018

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As the Synaxarion shows us, the Holy Great Martyr George was a military man and had an important leadership role during the time of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Coming from a good, wealthy, Christian, very abil, very brave family, he succeeded, in a short time, to be remarked in the Roman Empire’s army and thus to be near the Emperor. All this happened when he was very young. He had, therefore, anything anyone could wish for: wealth, recognition, admiration, brilliant career, and socially, in the brightest and highest entourage possible: the imperial one. And, as you know, then the Roman Empire was virtually the empire of the world.

 

Our Father Metropolitan Bartholomew of Cluj, said that it is harder for someone to keep up on the measure when he is successful than when he goes through trials. And this is wonderful, less emphasized when we refer to this holy martyr. Neither the success, nor the brilliant career, nor the imperial court have succeeded in making Gheorghe, the military man, lose his temper. And this, though he was very young!

 

What does this tell us about the martyr of Christ?

 

It tells us that he had a very profound spiritual life and a very vivid belief, that he had a right account of Christ, of eternal life and of the final destination: Heavenly Jerusalem. How many of us, if we had such a success, would we be able to detach our soul from our career, the recognition of those around us, their admiration, our up-and-coming friends? How many of us will, despite the social ascension, would be able to remain simple Christians, ready not only to give up everything at all times, but to give our lives for Christ, accepting to be treated as the last men, spit and blasphemy with the same intensity with whom we were before, praised and admired?

 

No one can do this if he does not have the gift of the Holy Spirit. No one can have this diamond strength unless it is strengthened by the fire of divine grace, unless one has a pure heart, that is, a stranger to any passionate attachment and fully surrendered to Christ the Savior. What a wonderful Christian soul was the Great Great Martyr George! He lived happily following the evangelical word: “Happy those who are pure in heart, for they will see God.”

 

As we read in his Life, when the Emperor Diocletian began his terrible persecution against Christians, the Holy Great Martyr George confronted him and, with holy boldness, rebuked him for his oppressive decision. In his speech, St. George showed the Emperor that the persecution of Christians was against the law and against justice, and was an abuse of unrighteous power, as he was tormenting innocent people. “Why do you persecute and oppress the Christians?” the martyr asked the Emperor, and then his men.

 

Behold, therefore, besides faith, the Great Martyr George also had a great sense of justice. Innocent persons were persecuted. It was grossly a violation of justice and law. There were unimaginable abuses and atrocities, to which the good, honest, fair, exemplary citizens of the Roman Empire fell.

 

St. George’s clean heart did not endure the persecution of Christians. He could not keep the silence, stand aside, hide from his brothers of sorrow. Here is another aspect of the Saint’s life: the fact that the impetus of his confession brought him to those innocent men killed in the wild, cruelly, appealing to the word of the Gospel: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness!

 

Let us not endure in our hearts to keep the silence, and pretend it is not our business, when innocent people are wronged or persecuted close to us! Especially if the persecuted are tortured for their Christian confession! Let us follow Holy Great Martyr George and love his deeds, for that is the only way we can call ourselves truly faithfull and friends of him. Let us love the purity of the heart, love the right testimony for the innocent, love the confession of the righteous faith. And pray to Holy Great Martyr George to give us the strength to rise before the mighty of this world and to tell them as he once said: “Why do you persecute and torment the Christians?”

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