The Feast Day of St. George
“The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world . . .”
These days I don’t often think of temptation as something external to me. The impulses that lead me astray seem pretty intrinsic to my personality. My need to please others and to belong, my desire to be seen and understood – these are parts of my nature that separate me from God. They are also, paradoxically, the very longings that lead ultimately to God. For only by God can I truly be seen and only in God can I truly belong, and God longs for me in a way that no earthly being ever will.
The voice of a devil or of a dragon – sometimes I wish the motivations that lead me astray could be so clear. There is no voice muttering in my ear, “Hush. Don’t respond to that racist joke or sexist put-down. It will only get you ostracized.” If there were I would maybe be a bit better at valiantly choosing to do the right thing. Killing dragons that can be seen seems somehow easier than dealing with my recalcitrance and reluctance. But I find that there is no one in those difficult moments when I should act except hesitant, anxious little me.
When I was younger I tried to become a different person, one not so beset by insecurity. At that point dragon-slaying might have been more in my purview. But eventually I learned that the new, improved me was not as delightful to God as the old, flawed me, so I gave it up. (Truth be told, It had been proving to be pretty impossible anyway.)
So, faced today with writing about St. George the Dragon-slayer, I was finding myself at a loss. What could I possibly say? I have never had the privilege of rescuing a damsel in distress, and faced with a fire-breathing dragon, I’m the sort who would want to know what had made it so unhappy and how to help it live a full and satisfying life.
But then I remembered an instance when the metaphor of a dragon made a lot of sense. I had made the mistake of watching the news for far too long, and I had sunk into a state of despair and fear. In the face of all those reports of calamity, of attempts to destroy the environment, of the extreme weather issues that accompany global warming, of people injured, dying, and made homeless by war and oppression I felt minuscule and helpless. It was all so overwhelming, so unfixable.
The Beast was in my living room. The dragon was speaking to me through our collective need to know the worst all the time, all over the globe, in the most sensationalist way possible. “Why bother?” it muttered. “Look how big the problems are. There’s nothing one person can do to make things better. You may as well quit trying. Who are you to keep fumbling around in an attempt to come to the aid of the less fortunate, to keep speaking up for justice and mercy? Save up your money instead and go on that vacation you’ve always dreamed of.”
St. George with your bright lance of truth, come to our rescue here. Remind us that one small drink of water given to someone in need is a gift to Jesus himself. Remind us that Jesus himself was just one individual with a small band of followers and that he healed the world one blind person at a time. Remind us that what is really important is love – of ourselves, of one another – and that that gift is of immeasurable weight, even if it looks to us to have no weight at all. And remind us that this is God’s world and God is active and caring everywhere in it, all the time. Even if God doesn’t often make the news. Amen.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: By Steve Collis from Melbourne, Australia via Wikimedia Commons