Monday, April 23, 2012

St. George's Looks Towards Christmas

Yes, we are a Scottish family, but we do love Saint George of Merry England. In fact, the first book we ever bought for our daughter was the classic children's book by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman---a great author/illustrator combo. The book is great for boys or girls, since it has a beautiful female character named Una as well as the noble and fearless Saint George. To my mind, there are two things that make this book extra special:
  1. The illustrations are spectacular. Not only are the actual pictures amazing, but each page has intricately designed borders with flowers, symbols and depictions of events in the book. And perhaps best of all, St. George is no pretty boy, and the dragon is actually ferocious, just like a dragon should be.
  2. The book really lends itself to out-loud, dramatic reading. There's one page (page 15 in our copy) that is just a long paragraph describing the dragon in detail, with such great descriptions as, "He reared high, monstrous, horrible, and vast, armed all over with scales of brass fitted so closely that no sword or spear could pierce them...His head was more hideous than tongue can tell, for his deep jaws gaped wide, showing three rows of iron teeth ready to devour his prey. A cloud of smothering smoke and burning sulfur poured from his throat, filling the air with its stench..."  And that's only half of it!
And on the more adult end of things, there are some great traditions associated with Saint George's feast day. One of the great customs is to make dandelion wine for Christmas. If anyone here in Phoenix knows of a large dandelion pasture, please do let us know. We've seen lots of cactus blossoms lately, but not much in the way of dandelions. Perhaps some day we will grow our own field of dandelion "weeds," just so we can make this recipe:

2 qts dandelion flowers
3 lbs granulated sugar
4 oranges
1 gallon water
yeast and nutrient

(From the site): This is the traditional "Midday Dandelion Wine" of old, named because the flowers must be picked at midday when they are fully open. Pick the flowers and bring into the kitchen. Set one gallon of water to boil. While it heats up to a boil, remove as much of the green material from the flower heads as possible (the original recipe calls for two quarts of petals only, but this will work as long as you end up with two quarts of prepared flowers). Pour the boiling water over the flowers, cover with cloth, and leave to steep for two days. Do not exceed two days. Pour the mixture back into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the peelings from the four oranges (again, no white pith) and boil for ten minutes. Strain through a muslin cloth or bag onto a crock or plastic pail containing the sugar, stirring to dissolve. When cool, add the juice of the oranges, the yeast and yeast nutrient. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, fit fermentation trap, and allow to ferment completely. Rack and bottle when wine clears and again when no more lees form for 60 days. Open and drink for Christmas.

Until that day, we plan to have a delicious dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to honor dear Saint George. Here's a novena in his honor that is commonly said in the nine days before his feast, although you could also start today, or any time for that matter:

Almighty and eternal God! With lively faith and reverently worshiping Thy divine Majesty, I prostrate myself before Thee and invoke with filial trust Thy supreme bounty and mercy. Illumine the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Thy heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Thy divine love, that I may contemplate the great virtues and merits of the saint in whose honor I make this novena, and following his example imitate, like him, the life of Thy divine Son.

Moreover, I beseech Thee to grant graciously, through the merits and intercession of this powerful Helper, the petition which through him I humbly place before Thee, devoutly saving, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Vouchsafe graciously to hear it, if it redounds to Thy greater glory and to the salvation of my soul. Amen.

O God, who didst grant to Saint George strength and constancy in the various torments which he sustained for our holy faith; we beseech Thee to preserve, through his intercession, our faith from wavering and doubt, so that we may serve Thee with a sincere heart faithfully unto death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end.

My Lord and my God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena.

Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen. 

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