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Syrian Orthodox Church History


This Church enjoys the greatest prestige in the history of Christendom since it is the first Church which was established in Jerusalem out of the Apostles, Preachers and other converted Jews, and was grafted in Antioch by those who were converted from among the Arameans and other gentile elements. It can justifiably claim the wealthiest liturgical and musical heritage, besides a proud theological and missionary record. The Church and it's parishioners still use Syriac-Aramaic the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ. It suffered untold hardships and tragedies including massacres and repeated transfer of the See of the Patriarchate from one locality to another due to political and other developments until it settled in Damascus-Syria. Historians declare that the survival of this Church was nothing short of a miracle. The current Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, the Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church is His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. The Church provides spiritual guidance to over four million parishioners throughout the World.


Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier and priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon. It is likely that Saint George was born to a Christian noble family in Lydda, Palestine during the late third century between about 275 AD and 285 AD, and he died in Nicomedia. His father, Gerontius, was a Roman army official from Cappadocia and his mother was from Palestine. They were both Christians and from noble families of Anici, so by this the child was raised with Christian beliefs. They decided to call him Georgius (Latin) or Geōrgios (Greek), meaning "worker of the land". At the age of 14, George lost his father; a few years later, George's mother, Polychronia, died. Eastern accounts give the names of his parents as Anastasius and Theobaste.


Then George decided to go to Nicomedia, the imperial city of that time, and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as he had known his father, Gerontius — one of his finest soldiers. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia.


In the year AD 302, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. But George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best Tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. George loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.


Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's city wall, on April 23, 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.