CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
FEBRUARY 2009 ARTICLE
VOL:08 ISSUE:02

SAINT GEORGE AND EASTERN CHURCHES OF INDIA
[Vs. SAINT THOMAS AND CHURCH IN ENGLAND]

By PROF. GEORGE MENACHERY

Patronage and remembrance:
Prior to the revision of the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, the feast of "St George, Martyr" was celebrated as a Semi-Double feast (see General Roman Calendar as in 1954), and later as a Commemoration. This article lists the feast days of the General Roman Calendar as it was in 1962, following the reforms of Pope John XXIII. Since 1969, his feast was downgraded to an optional memorial; the solemnity of his commemoration depending largely upon local observance. However, Traditionalist Catholic and "Traditional Catholic" communities want to see the continuation of the Commemoration of St. George and the celebration of his feast as a Semi Double Feast i.e. the feast day of "Saint George, Martyr", on April 23, either as a Semi-Double feast or Commemoration. Let this article be a clarion call to all Catholics and others who believe in the sanctity of St. Georgr and his powers of intercession to petition Pope Benedict XVI to restore the place of St. George in the Roman Calendar.

St George is very much honored by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is a Christian body that encompasses national jurisdictions such as the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox etc...., wherein he is referred to as a "Great Martyr".

Overall - His major feast day is on April 23 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian calendar. The Julian calendar was introduced in 46 BC by Julius Caesar and took force in 45 BC. April 23 currently falls on May 6 of the modern Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the calendar that is used nearly everywhere in the world.

The Russian Orthodox Church, also known as the Orthodox Catholic Church of Russia, is that body of Christians who also celebrates two additional feasts in honour of St. George: one on November 3 (November 16) commemorating the Consecration of the Cathedral dedicated to him in Lydda during the reign Constantine the Great (305-337) with the relic trasferred to this church when the church was consecrated, The other feast on November 26 (December 9) for a church dedicated to him in Kiev. Kiev, also written as Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part. India There are numerous churches dedicated to Saint George in India, officially the Republic of India, in South Asia.The devotion to St. George is very popular in India (especially in Kerala).

Kerala in the tropical Malabar Coast of southwestern India is a unique destination where millions of Christians practise Eastern Orthodoxy and Syrian Rites.

Facts About Oriental Orthodoxy:
The term Oriental Orthodoxy here refers to the communion of Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only the first three ecumenical councils, and Eastern Catholicism, such as the Syro Malabar Church and the Syro Malankara Church in India. In Kerala There are countless shrines to St. George in Kerala, India. For example, Puthiyathura, one of the famous pilgrim centers of Saint George, is in India. Here they celebrate his feast on the first Saturday and Sunday during the month of May. A huge number of people from Kerala and Tamilnadu visit this church on this special occassion. And everyday a lot of people visit and pray for their wishes. There is also a belief in Kerala, contrary to the teaching of the church, that Saint George is the brother of the Indian deity Kali. Kali is a goddess with a long and complex history in Hinduism . She is venerated in various forms all over India. In Kerala she is often Bhagavathi.

Social and Communal impacts:
George is the most popular or common christian baptismal name in Kerala. George includes, of course, Varghese, Verghese, Geevarghese, Varu, Varuthunny, Varappan, Varachan, Kunjuvareed, Kunjivaru, …. It is funny that just because the Vatican took a somewhat negative view on St. George's history - although George is an Eastern Saint of high repute down the centuries- some Churches and persons are reluctant to give this most reputed and renowned name to their adherents or children!!! Please remember that there are so many Georges in Kerala not because it is the name of the Patron Saint of England. The other popular names in Kerala before the west arrived here were Kuriakose or Cyriac or Kurien, Kuriakku, Kuriappan, Kuriachan and perhaps Thomas - Thoma, Thomman, Thommy.

It might appear strange but is true that while the English patron saint's name is the most popular in Kerala, in England itself the most popular and most common baptismal or Christian name is that of the father of Kerala Christianity viz. Thomas. Of course we have all heard about the Thomas Cromwells, Thomas Beckets, Thomas Carlyles, the Thomas Mores…. All because King Alfred the Great of England, by the way the only English king designated "THE GREAT" was able to win his war only after he promised to St. Thomas that if he won the war he would send offerings to Peter in Rome and to Thomas in India. and this is well documented in the Anglosaxon Chronicles. After he won the war he probably encouraged devotion to this most helpful saint - Thomas, and today it is the most popular name in England.

Strangley the English phrase Every TOM, Dick, and Harry begins with the name of Thomas.

The popularity of "THOMAS" in England was verified by Author Prof. George Menachery in 1975 from the British Census Reports of Various years in the British Museum Library - now the British Library.

St. George is the patron saint of many old churches in Kerala. Here are some that readily come to mind: St.George's Forane Church, Edappally (AD 503 ); St. George's Church, Karingachira (722 AD); St.George Forane Church, Aruvithura (1st centaury ); St. George Church, Kadamattam (1st centaury ); St. George's Church (Valiyapalli), Kottayam (1550); St. George Church, Edathua (1810 ); St. George's Church, Angamally; St. George's Church, Kumbalangi; St.George Church, Puthuppally; St.George Church, Muthalakodam; St. George's Cathedral, Thozhiyur; St. George's Church, Chandanapally...

St. George became so popular in Kerala perhaps because Kerala was infested with snakes and many including many early Brahmin settlers fled the land for fear of snakes. The existence of ever so many Sarpa Kavus and Snake temples in Kerala speaks volumes for the early fear of snakes in Kerala.

More info on St. George at http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Saint_George

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