Seventh Sunday of Easter

St. George by Heinrich Lefler — color lithograph from a calendar published by Artaria and Co. for the Austrian Museum of Arts and Crafts, 1900. Image by Getty Research Institute

May 21, 2023 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Acts 1:6-14 • Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 • 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 • John 17:1-11

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Image description: The image is comprised of three colored line-drawn panel illustrations. In the narrow upper left panel, two women with flowing hair and white robes pull ropes to ring three large golden bells atop a wooden scaffold. In a small square panel below them is a sun rising over a mountain under which appears the Latin phrase OCCINIT UT ORIATUR which translates: HE KILLS TO RISE. In the largest panel taking up the majority of the image is Saint George seen in profile and dressed in medieval armor with head bowed and hands clasped in prayer atop his black horse. On his hip hangs his shield – white with a red cross. The Christian banner (also white with a red cross) seen atop a long pole, rests against the saint’s far shoulder. Saint George appears through a stone archway featuring a small column topped with a crown-adorned eagle emblem and a sculpted crouching lion with an open mouth. Now dead, the head of large dragon hangs out the bottom of the archway. George’s sword is still stuck in its neck. A clawed foot rests on the column and the dragon’s large upward-pointing wings also frame the saint on his horse. On the stone below the archway appears the text, S. GEORGIUS — PATRON VON KRAIN.

When they had gathered just outside Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives, they asked Jesus,
Disciples: Is now the time, Lord—the time when You will reestablish Your kingdom in our land of Israel?
Jesus: The Father, on His own authority, has determined the ages and epochs of history, but you have not been given this knowledge. Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.
— Acts 1:6-8

Sing songs of praise to the name that belongs to the True God! Let your voices ring out in songs of praise to Him, the One who rides through the deserted places. His name is the Eternal; celebrate in His glorious presence… To Him who rides high up beyond the heavens, which have been since ancient times, watch and listen. His voice speaks, and it is powerful and strong. Attribute power to the one True God; His royal splendor is evident over Israel, and His power courses through the clouds. O True God, You are awesome from the holy place where You dwell. The True God of Israel Himself grants strength and power to His people. Blessed be our God! — Psalm 68:4,33-35

So bow down under God’s strong hand; then when the time comes, God will lift you up. Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries. Most importantly, be disciplined and stay on guard. Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone. — 1 Peter 5:6-8

Jesus (lifting His face to the heavens): Father, My time has come. Glorify Your Son, and I will bring You great glory because You have given Me total authority over humanity. I have come bearing the plentiful gifts of God; and all who receive Me will experience everlasting life, a new intimate relationship with You (the one True God) and Jesus the Anointed (the One You have sent). I have glorified You on earth and fulfilled the mission You set before Me. — John 17:1-4

The Legend of Saint George* has received attention and popularity for centuries. Countless artists across many cultures have chosen to render this victorious dragon slayer on his mighty horse. And for centuries, Saint George has been understood to symbolize Christ’s victory over death and his Enemy, Satan. The depiction I’ve chosen today is unique. Austrian artist, Heinrich Lefler portrays George in prayer just after he has conquered the beast. I found this particular image along side the women ringing the bells in celebration to offer connections with the texts for this week.

Here are a few questions to help you as you explore and meditate with this image:
The disciples wanted Jesus to be a real life “Saint George” —someone to conquer the evil and oppressive forces here on earth. How do we also desire such a deliverer?
If you think of this knight symbolically as Christ in prayer, and the women as angels giving praise, what thoughts arise? What feelings?
What do you make of the Latin phrase OCCINIT UT ORIATUR and its translation HE KILLS TO RISE? What might this mean?

*The Legend of Saint George — An event with little historical documentation, the legend says that George rose from the dead to deliver the people of his native city in modern-day Beruit, from a dragon who had been terrorizing them. To keep the dragon at bay, the ruler declared that each day a child would be sacrificed after being chosen by drawing lots. On the day the ruler’s own daughter had been selected, as she stood weeping on the shore of the lake were the monster resided, valiant George, riding a gorgeous steed rushed in and gave the dragon a crushing blow, piercing it with a spear and trampling it with his horse.

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?

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