2020 is not a year that we look back to with joy and gladness; on the other hand it has been an annus horribilis for many families around the globe, using Queen Elizabeth’s precise words when referring to 1992, arguably the worst year of her long life. Covid-19 has managed to break into pieces the very fabric of our close-knit society. Fearing a potential second wave in the coming autumn months, it is no surprise that the festa-fever of this year leaves much to be desired.
However, as the old adage goes, life is as you make it. Considering the way things have developed lately, the Feast of St George is being celebrated, though with many differences. There are new aspects to it. The Collegiate Chapter has welcomed two effective canons among its members: Rev. Dr Richard N. Farrugia and Rev. Geoffrey G. Attard. The two new canons were installed by Bishop Mario Grech on Christmas Day 2019. Can. Simon M. Cachia, Parishpriest of Fontana, is another new face among the canons of St George’s. The faces of our young priests augur well for the future of our College of Canons whose aim is to come together to worship the Lord in the Sacred Liturgy. This year, it is our special duty to offer special prayers for Mgr Coronato Grima, an honorary member of St George’s Collegiate, who is going through hard times and whose presence at St George’s throughout the years, especially during the festa week, has been assiduous.
The Piccolo Clero of our Basilica also welcomes its newest of members. Jayden, Jurgen and Beppe are the new altarservers at St George’s. By giving their service during this week of festivities, they are undergoing a baptism of fire, having to endure the long hours of the liturgical services that are at the very heart of the feast celebrated in honour of our Patron Saint of old, the Martyr George of Lydda. Speaking of the festivities in the church, this year’s calendar of activities is restricted to what has been deemed as essential. One could feel the absence of the violins and other important instruments of the orchestra; the organ, considered by Mozart as “the king of instruments”, has no competitors to compete with. In a way, this provided the right milieu for all of us to appreciate better the importance of this musical instrument.
The façade of the Basilica, designed in the early 19th century by Canon Salvatore Bondì, is undergoing the much needed restoration that will hopefully restore it to its former glory. As St George’s statue is brought out of its basilica, the usual features of this exit will not be the same. However, at the end of the day, St George’s Feast is an achievement of love. No lack of fireworks, lights, musical instruments and other paraphernalia will slacken the festive spirit, since it is the love for St George that makes the feast what it is. May we continue to enjoy his protection as we face the future of the unkown, never forgetting that George’s love for Christ never allowed him to be separated from him not even when the tide turned against him to the point of shedding his blood for his sake!
Last but not least, the titular statue of St George, an ex-voto commissioned in 1838 in thanksgiving for the intercession of Gozo’s Patron Saint during the cholera outbreak of the previous year, which from its place next to the main altar of the Basilica has silently guarded our people in the last few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, will once again grace the streets of our island’s main town tomorrow evening during the pilgrimage in which we are all invited to participate by marching behind the statue and joining in prayer.
photos: Andrea Camilleri