St. George’s Day

April 23, 2024

by Christine Sine

by Jeannie Kendall

George of Lydda was a 3rd century martyr, a Roman soldier killed for his refusal to renounce his faith and better known as St George. He is the patron saint of England, but also of Georgia and Ethiopia. Despite little being known about his life, he is of course the subject of the legend of St George and the dragon, which is variously expressed, but centred around a dragon which is terrorising a city, and is appeased only by sacrifice. Having run out of possibilities, the king’s daughter is to be sacrificed. Enter St George, who saves the girl by killing the dragon with a lance. The concept of dragons however dates back much further. The first mention is thought to be on a clay tablet 4000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. The word is usum-gal  – literally big snake. 

Although it is unclear how accurate this is – in case any of you reading this are cartographers – it is widely assumed that in ancient maps, where it was unknown what was there, but it was thought to be frightening, the map would simply be marked ‘here be dragons’. 

Dragons of course represent different things in different cultures. This year is the Chinese year of the dragon. In Chinese folklore and culture the dragon again signals great strength, but is understood in positive terms, controlling typhoons and floods. The dragon is celebrated with stunning festivals and artwork.  What all presentations of dragons share is the concept of great power, but more frequently than not, is depicted as frightening.

In the King James translation of the bible, the word dragon appears 21 times. Now those words are translated differently: at that point what we would now call large reptiles were described as dragons. In the Old Testament, we have the Leviathan, the sea serpent which we find mentioned in the Psalms, Job and Isaiah. Sea serpents featured prominently in the mythology of the ancient near East, and it was common in early religions to have battles between the sea monster, the creator of chaos, and a hero or god who defeated them and created order. In Psalm 74, God the King is depicted as defeating the Leviathan. In the interests of fairness – usually Leviathan is negative, but in Psalm 104, which celebrates creation, the Leviathan is shown as frolicking! In Job 41 there is an extraordinary description of the Leviathan which suggests both the subjection of it and certainly a high degree of respect for it. 

In Revelation 12 we read of a dragon who tries to attack the Messiah, against whom the dragon is implacably opposed. At the end of the chapter the dragon is not fully defeated, but standing on the seashore – which in Hebrew thinking stood for the forces of chaos and disorder – bringing an added significance to Jesus calming the storm. By the end of Revelation, the dragon is finally defeated and because of this there is a new heaven and earth, and the wonderful declaration that, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Nancy Rockwell in a moving blog about John chapter 11  (Jesus, Dragonslayer | Nancy Rockwell ( speaks of Jesus as the dragonslayer, defeating the dragon of death not with a lance but with his tears. Later he takes the place of sacrifice to the ‘dragon’, refusing the sword wielded by Peter but using only the power of compassion: for the soldiers who did not know what they were doing, for the renegade rebel beside him, for his bereft mother. All death’s raging cannot harden his heart. And among others Mary Magdalene in her tears, the couple on the road to Emmaus in their despair, and Thomas with his honest need to see, all discover that death is defeated. He is the rescuing Christus Victor.

So perhaps on this St George’s day, we would do well to remember that the ultimate ‘dragon’ of death has been destroyed, bringing us the gift of life, not with a lance, but by the loving sacrifice because of the extraordinary love of a God who refused to abandon us to our fate. 

Gift of Wonder Online Retreat

This online retreat is based on Christine Sine’s latest book The Gift of Wonderbut with much more! Going deeper into a discovery of new depths of awe to draw us closer to God. I invite you to reawaken your inner child and rediscover the depths of awe and wonder that reconnect us to our passionate God who delights in life, celebrates with joy and exudes a sense of awe and wonder. This interactive process will have us remembering our childhood stories, doodling for fun, painting on rocks and and relearning the awe and wonder of nature walks, joyspot sightings, compassion games and exercises that enable us to delight in God in new and creative ways. This course is offered for 180 days of access.

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