Spiritual diamonds

A homily by His Grace Bishop Partenij of Antania, given at Vespers in honor of Great Martyr George the Victorious, at the monastery dedicated to him in Rajčica, on May 5th in the year of Our Lord 2022.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

Beloved, may Holy Great-Martyr George always help us, and may this glorious Victory-Bearer of Christ pray for us before the Throne of the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, confirming us in every good work, and may we follow Him with faith.

The saint we celebrate today was a shining witness to the Resurrection of Christ in his time, and he remains such even today, even though about one thousand, seven hundred years have passed since he was martyred for Christ. The memory of this warrior for Christ will never fade away; it will remain bright and strong in the people’s memory because he is eternally alive in the Lord. That’s how it will be until the end of the world. One day, by the grace of God, we will see his bright face in Christ’s ineffable glory.

Why is Saint George so well-known both in the East and the West and all over the world? Because he did not make the slightest compromise in our holy faith. When he was asked to renounce his faith, he courageously and fearlessly confessed Christ, giving up literally every worldly thing. He had quite a few earthly treasures and comforts: he was a military tribune, a very high rank of a military commander in the Roman imperial army; he had bodily strength, beauty, and a bright future before him. The Emperor even offered for him to become the emperor’s son-in-law. However, he gave it all up just for the sake of Christ. Along with the Apostle Paul, he firmly believed, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Everything is just rubbish: fame, honors, wealth, flattery, promises, and last of all: even his own flesh. When his body was given over to numerous horrific tortures, St. George did not waver in the least from his faith in Christ. In this way, he gave the loudest testimony to the Resurrection of Christ and to the fact that the Savior is truly alive. As a result, many of those who witnessed the Great Martyr’s sufferings were assured of the truth of the Christian faith and illumined by his miracles and came to believe in the only truth — Christ God. We know from the Life of the Saint that when Empress Alexandria witnessed Saint George’s faith, suffering, and endurance for the sake of Christ, even she exclaimed: “I too am a Christian!” Now, she was Emperor Diocletian’s wife, and he was known for his particular hatred and fierce persecution of Christians. Thus, in the end, she suffered for God too along with many others.

What message does Saint George’s life have for us, especially us monks? That our good desire to follow Christ should always be accompanied by a strong faith and martyr’s conscience, so that we remain with Him until the end, even if it costs us everything. The Church Fathers equate the monastic life with that of the Martyrs, like the Holy Great Martyr George, the Great Martyr Demetrius, and countless others who suffered, shed their blood for Christ, and never betrayed Him. So, just like them, we are also duty-bound to shed spiritual blood for Christ every day. There is no going back, no more just doing whatever we want. “The abbot doesn’t do it,” we say. Maybe. But nowhere in monastic literature does it say that you should abandon him or leave him without a blessing. On the contrary, in all manuals of monastic life, fidelity and obedience are emphasized as the most sacred thing, as supreme theology. Do you think that everything is good and easy when you are married and have a family?

Today, the time has come for people in families to perform even greater feats. Recently, several of the monks and I were in Greece. On one occasion I noticed a priest, dressed in a complete traditional priest’s outfit, with a rasso and a kamilavka. His two children were running around, and his wife was walking behind him. He had such modesty, piety, and joy, it really amazed me. He was young, about forty years old. The monks and I were in a pastry shop where we were buying a gift for a man. Then I told one of the brothers to buy some cakes, put them in a box, and take them to the priest for the children. Meanwhile, the priest approached his humble car, and three more children got out. This priest and his wife had five children! At that moment the monk ran to them and, giving them the box with the sweets, said to the priest: “Father, this is from the Elder, for the children, because he was very happy and delighted when he saw you.” Then the father came with the whole family and they greeted me. Why am I telling you all this, my dear monks? What do you think? Is it easy for that priest to take care of five children in the world, in these difficult times of crisis? No, not at all! But he was filled with gratitude and love. This should be an impetus for us to be even more zealous in our endeavors and grateful for the grace-filled path on which God has led us, without grumbling or searching after unnecessary things.

Monks are the spiritual descendants of St. George, St. Demetrius, and countless Martyrs. The people are watching us! Just like when people used to be watching what the martyrs would do when they were persecuted. In those harsh pagan times, when most people’s lives were pretty boring, one of the peoples’ favorite pastimes was watching fights, both between two men or a man and an animal. They wanted to see suffering and blood. When someone was tortured, it was almost like their equivalent of a theatrical performance. They enjoyed seeing bloodshed. However, many of those cruel people, when they saw St. George and the other Martyrs lovingly suffer everything for the sake of their dearest Christ, they became Christians themselves. Dozens, even hundreds, became Christ’s followers after a Martyr was tortured. Similarly, even today when people see monks, they are transformed and come to truly believe in the Faith. Think back to Great Lent and Pascha: how many people came to know Christ in our monasteries? And why? Because they saw the example of the monks: their freedom, joy, and love. The very thought of someone giving up everything in this world and living in obedience until death is enough for most people. So please be careful – let your renunciation of the world be true. Let’s not turn out to be liars! Protect yourselves from the world, because “whoever wants to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). This world is not for us, my children. It is our enemy and adversary. Remember what the Lord said to the disciples: “In the world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

St. George the Victorious conquered the world through Christ and this is why he is bright in the Heavens. We should be like this too. We do not know how long we have left in this life. So let’s become as strong as diamonds. In the divine services, St. George is called “a noetic diamond.” You know, diamond is the strongest mineral in nature. St. George, therefore, proved to be as strong as a diamond in faith. Let us also show ourselves to be strong in faith, love, and obedience. Let us become spiritual diamonds as well, my dear monks. Of course, this also applies to laypeople, who are no less called to be witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection. You too, by living a good life, should bear witness to Christ. All of us Christians are called to bear witness to the Risen Savior and the only Light with our lives, not just with words. He is the True Life and the Kingdom of Heaven, the salvation of every person.

May Saint George protect and inspire us!

Christ is risen!