The eighty-year-old Acepsimas, filled with every Christian virtue, was sitting one day in his home with guests. Just then a child, filled with the Spirit of God, ran up to the aged bishop, kissed him on the head and said: "Blessed is this head, for it will receive suffering for Christ." This prophecy was soon fulfilled. King Sapor raised a bitter persecution of Christians throughout Persia, and St. Acepsimas was apprehended. He was brought before a prince who was also a pagan priest. As the bishop was arrested and bound, a member of his household asked him what should be done with his home if he were martyred. The saint replied: "It is no longer my home. I am going to a home on high and will not return." After prolonged interrogation he was thrown into prison. The following day Joseph, a seventy-year-old presbyter, and Aithalas, a deacon, were also imprisoned. After three years of imprisonment and many tortures, Acepsimas was beheaded. Joseph and Aithalas were buried up to their waists in the ground, and the soulless pagans forced Christians to stone them. That night, by God's providence, Joseph's body disappeared, and a myrtle tree grew over Aithalas's body that healed every kind of disease and pain of men. This tree stood for five years before the wicked and envious pagans cut it down. These soldiers of Christ suffered in Persia in the fourth century, during the time of the pagan King Sapor.
On this day we commemorate the translation of the relics of St. George, from Nicomedia, where he suffered at the time of Emperor Diocletian, to the city of Lydda in Palestine. The suffering of this wonderful saint is described on April 23. Anticipating his martyrdom, St. George begged his servant to take his relics to Palestine, where his mother had been born, and where he had distributed his large estate to the poor. The servant did so. During the reign of Emperor Constantine, pious Christians built a beautiful church to St. George in Lydda and, upon the consecration of that church, the relics of the saint were interred there. Innumerable miracles have occurred from these miracle-working relics of St. George, the great-martyr of Christ.
Elias labored in asceticism near Antinoe, the principle city of the Thebaid. For seventy years, he lived among the arid and inaccessible rocks of the desert. He ate only bread and dates and, in his youth, fasted for weeks at a time. He healed all manner of pains and ailments of the people. He eventually became very shaky in his old age, and entered into the joy of his Lord at the age of 110. Elias said: ``Guard your mind from evil thoughts concerning your neighbors, knowing that the demons put them there, aiming to blind you to your own sins and prevent you from directing yourself toward God.''
The Holy Great-martyr George
O George the martyr,
O George the victor:
Through suffering, you conquered,
And through death you have been glorified.
You held all things to be of less value
Than truth, O George.
You gave up earthly power and honor,
And stood beside the Living Christ.
O George the martyr,
O George the victor:
Pierced and broken with horrible tortures,
You were sustained by God's hand.
All your pains were as nothing-
By the power of God's mighty hand.
We all bow down before you
And glorify your name.
O Martyr George,
O Victor George:
Have mercy on us now,
By your prayers, protect us
Before the throne of Christ God,
Our Almighty Savior;
And pray that we not fear torture,
And that, by patience, we conquer!
Among the countless miracles of St. George, this one is recorded: On the island of Mytilene there was a church dedicated to St. George the Great-martyr and Trophy-bearer. All the inhabitants of the island would come to this church on the annual feast of their patron saint. Knowing of this, the Saracens of Crete once attacked this island on its feast day, pillaged the island, and enslaved its inhabitants, taking many of them back to Crete. Among the enslaved was a handsome young man, whom the pirates gave to their prince. The prince made him his servant. The young man's parents were overwhelmed with great sorrow for their son. After a year had passed and St. George's day came again, the grieving parents, following the ancient custom, prepared a table and entertained many guests. Remembering her son, the poor mother went to the icon of the saint, fell to the ground and began to pray that he somehow deliver her son from slavery. The mother then returned to her guests at the table. The host raised a glass and drank a toast to the honor of St. George. Just then their son appeared among them, holding a decanter of wine in his hand. In amazement and fear, they asked him how he had managed to come to them. He replied that as he was about to serve his master wine in Crete, a knight on horseback appeared before him, pulled him up onto the horse and carried him instantly to his parents' home. All were amazed, and glorified God and His wonderful saint, George the Commander and Victory-bearer.
Contemplate the wondrous deliverance of Paul and Silas from prison (Acts 16):
on Christ as the Head of all the saints
That … He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth (Ephesians 1:10).
Sin causes panic and confusion. A man drowning in sin and vice is like a chicken with its head cut off which, dying, thrashes about convulsively and rushes to and fro. Before Christ's Incarnation, the whole pagan world was a confused, headless body, dying in convulsions. Christ joined the severed head with the benighted trunk and brought the body of the human race back to life. He is the Head of the heavenly host, and He has always been. And, as the Creating Word of God, He was from the beginning the Head of everything created in the visible world, especially the human race. But sin, like a sword, separated the sinful trunk of Adam from his Head. However, the Lord reconciled heaven and earth in His Incarnation, bringing heaven to earth, and raising earth to heaven, and establishing all of it under His mind, under His headship. Through Christ we are reconciled with the Holy Trinity and the angels of God, with one another, and with the created nature around us. The lost Head has been found and all has been harmoniously arranged beneath it. The Apostle says: We have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). As the head is to the physical man, so the mind is to the spiritual inner man. Therefore, if we are Christ's, we must think and judge in all things according to our Head, Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Thinking and judging by Him, we will perceive ourselves as organs of one body that includes other men and the angels: one body, whose Head is Christ. Hence, our love for God is enkindled, and our faith strengthened, and our hope enlightened. Only a sleeping body feels no link with its head. Let us awaken, my brethren, let us awaken while we have time.
O Lord Jesus Christ, our All-wise Head, unite us with Thyself.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.