‘Trophy-bearer’, Captain of the Christian army, Martyr for the faith, Victory bearer, Great Martyr of the Eastern Church, Champion of the Military Saints! These are but a few of the titles given to Saint George throughout the ages, especially when the Crusaders beseached him during their prayers against the infidels in the Middle Ages! However, there is one other title which is older than most: Saint George, the Wonder-Worker!
A Wonder-Worker is a saint who performs miracles. One of the most renowned saints of early Christianity who is still referred to as ‘Wonder-Worker’ is St Gregory. Gregory Thaumaturgus or Gregory the Miracle-Worker (Grēgórios ho Thaumatourgós; Latin: Gregorius Thaumaturgus; c. 213-270), also known as Gregory of Neocaesarea, was a Christian bishop of the 3rd century who has been canonised as a saint in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. However, even our Saint George falls under the category of the Wonder-Worker saints. A cult of St George in which the faithful invoked him in his quality of Wonder-Worker was and is still extant in the Middle East and in Egypt, especially in the Coptic Church.
This is what Jimmy Dun, the author of an online article about devotion to St George the Wonder-Worker in Egypt, has to say about this aspect of the saint’s ancient cult:
Ever since the fifth century, Western Christians have venerated the chains of the apostle Peter in the Basilica of Saint Peter of the Chains, on the Esquiline in Rome. However, in the Middle East, it is not the chains of St. Peter but of Saint George that are believed to posses miraculous powers to cure the demon-possessed and paralytics… The origins of the Coptic attachment to the chains of Saint George are in the Byzantine tradition. Since the seventeenth century, the chains of Saint George in the Greek Orthodox Convent of Saint George have been used to tie up those suffering from nervous disorders, anxiety neuroses, conversion hysteria, obsessional neuroses and even schizophrenic psychose.
A look into this website is worth visiting for both religious and historical reasons.
Maltese poet and writer Ġużè Muscat Azzopardi narrates how one day, when he was very sick and thought he was about to die, he prayed through the intercession of the saint. He actually saw the saint for a few second who then disappeared. The poet was healed and lived for many more years. This episode is certainly a classical example of the saint’s intercession as a wonder-worker. It has to be said that Muscat Azzopardi – who was also the founding-father of the Akkademja tal-Malti – wrote in 1880 the verses of the first hymn to Saint George, the patron of his town and his first work in prose was the Life of Saint George (1874), which was a translation from Italian.
There are also signs of this aspect of the cult of St George in our islands. A modern adaptation of a prayer written to be recited during the Second World War invokes St George as a ‘Tawmaturgu’, the Maltese equivalent for ‘Wonder-Worker’. The term has Greek origins and as stated above, the term orginated in the Middle East where Greek was one of the main languages. During the present crisis, we as the Christian community of the island of Gozo (and even Malta) should pray through the intercession of St George the ‘Wonder-Worker’ that through the mercy of God we may remain healthy in soul and body as we praise him and give him glory.