Today, May 6th was a wonderful celebration with Archimandrite Jack-Nobel, our Taybeh parish priest of St. George Great Martyr Church of the Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarchate celebrating the feast of St. George in our village with His Excellency Archbishop Yousef Jules Zerey, Archbishop of Damiat & the General Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem.
Many members of the Greek Catholic community traveled from various locations in the Holy Land to attend today’s beautiful liturgy with over ten priests including our own local priests, Fr. Daoud and Fr. Johnny with the entire Taybeh community. It has been an annual tradition to have the amazing and glorious voice of Jack Rabah of Ramallah for Byzantine chanting.
St. George is our patron saint of Taybeh and also the patron saint of Palestine.
In Taybeh, we have the ancient two churches also named after St. George, both dating back to the 4th/5th century. This is a special chant in honor of St. George:
“Since thou art a liberator and deliverer of captives, a help and succour of the poor and needy,
a healing physician of the sick, a contender and fighter for kings, O great among Martyrs, the victory-clad George; intercede with Christ God for the salvation of our souls.”
When I visited Cappadocia last year, I could not help but notice in every chapel after another, the image of St. George carved in so many ancient cave churches. He is such a beloved saint not just in Cappadocia where his father was from but in the entire Middle East. His mother was from Palestine.
St. George was known to be a commander in the Roman Army but he refused to help Emperor Diocletian persecute the Christians. The courage of St. George to stand up against the Emperor actually reminds me of the very few but brave Israeli soldiers who love their country but refuse to serve in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Actually, every Christian now in the Middle East has to have this brave stance for Christ as did St. George around the year 296 when he was beheaded because he announced his genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and God.
It is known in Church tradition that the sacred remains of St. George were taken from Nicomedia (Asia Minor) where he was martyred to Palestine where his mother lived in the ancient town called Lydda (currently the Tel Aviv Airport is next to St. George Church in Israel) We celebrate the translation of the holy relics to the church in Lydda every year on November 16 (which is actually only November 3rd on the Old Julian calendar when the official Greek Orthodox Patriarchate celebration occurs) The November event is a bigger celebration with parades and scouts and people from all over the Holy Land traveling to ancient Lydda (now Lod) to honor the Great Martyr George.
A small side note about St. George is worth mentioning that the reason he might be the most beloved saint in the whole Middle East is not only for his courage and being brave to express his faith but churches who had the image of St. Church throughout the centuries were not destroyed during invasions. We think of St. George like insurance for buildings based on this oral tradition. It is very common to see the image of St. George carved in stone in many of the houses today in Bethlehem. So, our small town, with less than 2,000 people and three magnificent churches named after the Great Martyr George expresses in itself our love for this illustrious brave Church hero.