St George is the patron saint of England. The anniversary of his death on April 23 is seen as England’s national day.
According to legend, he was a member of the Roman army who killed a dragon and saved a princess. From the 15th century St George’s Day used to be a national holiday in England and was celebrated almost as widely as Christmas. This waned by the end of the 18th century but seems to be gradually regaining popularity in England although it is not a national holiday today as many would like.
St George was born around the year 280 in what is now Turkey. He was a soldier and was executed for being a Christian in 303. The crusades spread the fame of St George and his flag with the red cross. In 1349 a law was passed to establish him as England’s patron saint. The nation put the red cross at the centre of the Union Flag when it was created in 1801. That cross, the supreme Christian symbol, reminds English people of the cost of unshakeable faith and of courageous sacrifice. Jesus paid that same sacrifice in his crucifixion.
The difference is that Jesus bore on the cross the sins of the world. He conquered sin and death and rose again so that we might have life. The tradition of self-sacrifice associated with St George has left its mark on the nation’s history. It is about the triumph of goodness, truth, love and peace. Our nation needs to go back to these ideals and remember what made this nation great. The cross of St George reminds English people of its duty to the one who first bore that cross.
Canon Stephen Bradberry