/*--

Τετάρτη, 23 Απριλίου 2014

WHAT IS THE LEGEND OF ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON?

   
The legend of Saint George and the Dragon appended to the hagiography of Saint George was Eastern Orthodox in origin, brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of Legend. The earliest known depictions of the motif are from tenth- or eleventh-century Cappadocia and eleventh-century Georgia. Previously, in the iconography of Eastern Orthodoxy, 


St. George had been depicted as a soldier, since at least the seventh century. The earliest known surviving narrative of the dragon episode is an eleventh-century Georgian text. According to the Golden Legend, the narrative episode of Saint George and the Dragon took place in a place he called "Silene", in Libya. The Golden Legend is the first to place this legend in Libya as a sufficiently exotic local, where a dragon might be found. In the tenth-century Georgian narrative, the place is the fictional city of Lasia, and the idolatrous emperor who rules the city is called Selinus. 

The town had a pond, as large as a lake, where a plague-bearing dragon dwelt and that envenomed all the country-side. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene used to feed it two sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fed it their children, chosen by lottery. It happened that the lot fell on the king's daughter, who is called Sabra (St. Elizabeth in some traditions) in some versions of the story. The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. 

The daugh-ter was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon. Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but St. George vowed to remain. The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross, charged it on horseback with his lance, and gave it a grievous wound. He then called to the princess to throw him her belt, and he put it around the dragon's neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek pet on a leash. 

The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptized, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, and St. George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. "Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children." On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease. 

SPIRITUAL SYMBOLISM In Orthodox Iconography and Theology; there is indeed strong symbolism behind the story and icons of St George slaying the dragon. The dragon and the serpent are both descriptions given to the devil by St John in his Revelation (Rev 12:9). Whatever the true nature of the beast, it is described as a dragon in the earliest written records, and depicted as a serpentine dragon in the oldest surviving images, to deliberately evoke this imagery of the devil. St George’s appearance also deliberately evokes Biblical symbolism. Again in the Divine Revelation to St John, the Apostle writes: “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” (Rev 6:2) 

A conquering soldier upon a bright white horse is precisely how St George is described in both the written and painted accounts of the miracle. Icons of the miracle also often show a crown being brought down from heaven and placed on George’s head by an angel. Other icons, especially from Greece, will also show George with a bow and quiver of arrows near his saddle, completing the comparison with the horseman in Revelation. This is the image and icon the miracle of St George presents us with: the Martyr who has become a conquering hero. St George sits atop his conquering white steed, red cloak of martyrdom billowing behind him, with the blessing of Jesus Christ indicated by the hand reaching forth to bless him. He rides forth conquering: the devil first of all, in the form of the dragon, and then latterly the inhabitants cowering behind the town walls. 

Ensconced in their fortress, they look fearfully on because they too are conquered by St George: not through force, but by their conversion to Christianity after seeing the wonders performed by God through him. More important, though, is to understand the meaning of the miracle. It is more than likely that the historical miracle and the symbolic interpretation of the miracle happened at the same time. This is how it happened in the Scriptures too: a miracle was not done for the sake of doing a miracle, but “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” (John 11:4, and at other places in John’s Gospel especially). Amen

Rev. Protopresbyter Nicholas V. Gamvas, D. Min., Ph.D.

source : St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church in Canton, Ohio

+

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...