Sunday, February 10, 2013

St George the Trophy-Bearer

St George the Trophy-Bearer
by the hand of ikonographer Photios Kontoglou
St George was an officer serving in the armed forces of the Roman Empire, under Diocletian. Ikons must always show the historicity of the event or person, and so the saint wears the uniform of a Roman imperial officer, including the solar faced medallion. There is nothing impious about this. As modern day Orthodox living in a pagan, often anti-Christian culture, we are sometimes forced by the conditions of our employment to assume some of the trappings (whether of material substance, or whether of protocol, which is even more dangerous) of the non-Christian employer. This should not be taken to mean we endorse them, but they can sometimes contaminate our witness for the Truth (who is Christ), and if we are not careful, they can also gradually wean us from the community of faith and graft us into the culture of death.

As an ikon, the ‘portrait of St George’ type of ikon, while perhaps not as compelling or at least not as graphic as the more common depiction of the saint mounted and spearing a dragon, is actually the more to be preferred, precisely because of its historicity. St George the trophy-bearer is certainly a saint called on in all times and places for help, and there must be a reason why. Even Muslims in the Near East venerate him. He is somehow the archetype of the devoted and guileless servant of God, trapped by circumstances leading to his physical death, yet liberated without sinning into what the holy apostle Paul calls the ‘freedom of the sons of God’ (Romans 8:21).

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