St. George and the Damsel

Here is an excerpt from an old post “Damsels in Distress,” in which I mention St. George whose feast we celebrate today:

That brings me more directly to the question of the “damsel in distress.”  It is a chivalric image of vulnerability and innocence.  Of course, such an image is not complete without the “knight in shining armor,” who conveys the sense of courage and heroism.  The image, completed with the damsel in distress being saved by the knight in shining armor, is the picture of courtesy and contains as happy an ending as anyone could hope for.  Perhaps the word that best describes it is one coined by Tolkien: eucatastrophe, meaning the complete reversal of catastrophe, idealized as the triumph of the Cross made available to all of us in the Eucharist.

Historically one of the earliest and most important examples of the image as it entered the West is the legend of St. George and the Dragon.  The story is by no means an exclusively Western treasure (I think of Russia and Lebanon, for example), but it is particularly important for an understanding of Western chivalry (especially in England).

As the legend goes, or at least one version of it, a dragon took up its abode at the spring from which the locals drew their water.  The dragon thus took custody of the spring and demanded a price for its use.  The only way the townsfolk could draw their water was by the offering of someone to the dragon as a human sacrifice.  Each day a new victim was selected by common agreement through the drawing of lots.  One fateful day, the lot fell to the princess of the kingdom, and even the intervention of her father, the king, was not enough to save her from the dragon; the people insisted that the arrangement be respected.  At this point, St. George providentially ride up on his steed and volunteered his services to face the dragon, which he did to great effect, the dragon being slain and the damsel rescued.  The awestruck townspeople as a result abandoned the ways of paganism and became Christians.

Crusaders, it is said, brought the story back from the East, and retold it as a courtly romance.  In a way typical of the Middle Ages, Christian tradition and hagiography was transformed into quasi-secular romance.  Certainly, for courtiers who heard this story the “art of courtly love,” could easily serve as the hermeneutic for the understanding of the story, in which case, it would not be any different from the story of the rescue of a damsel in the Arthurian cycle.  However, the Christian symbolism, even in the most embellished version of the legend, is unmistakable: the Christ figure enters into combat with the Demon and rescues the Virgin Church from his clutches.  This is paradise regained.  In some versions of the legend, there is even a tree (Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) to which the maiden is tied and from which she is rescued.

The damsel in distress is the bride of Ephesians 5.  This passage of St. Paul on marriage is a holy incantation and exorcism that scatters the feminist demons to their dark and gloomy pits.  St. Paul, the “misogynist,” is actually the guardian of feminine weakness and the promoter of chivalry.  He admonishes the coward Adam and kneels at the feet of the hero Christ.  Both men and women are better for it, if by casting off the modern prejudice they can just for a moment wave away the wafting mist of the Ms. Rambo deception and see the Bridegroom and Bride for who they truly are.

16 thoughts on “St. George and the Damsel

  1. Grew up reading the ‘knights in shining armor’ tales. Thought they would be real; men protecting women. Not so. Women have had to take care of themselves because society has produced whimpy/gutless men.
    Advice for women: Let down your hair, and rescue yourself from the ‘tower’. He’s not coming.

  2. I haven’t yet known St. George’s story. I thought it very exciting! Besides that, it has a very beautiful simbolic meaning, as Fr. Angelo explained.

  3. In Brazil St. George is very known and he has many devotee. But unfortunately the devotion for him is misrepresented by the afro syncretism. They mistaken him with a pagan god (a demon) of a afro religion, called Ogun. That’s very said, because bring many people to idolatry and ocultism.

  4. Actually is not the society that has produced whimpy and gutless men. In reality, feminism is that has produced whimpy and gutless men. By the other side, it has produced agressive and manish women.
    I’m saying this not by myself, but I have heart that in some preachings of a very cultured and pious priest that has unmasked many ideologies of our time.
    Men and women are suposed to be friends and lovers of each others, NOT enemies.

    See Mulieris Dignitatem, nº 10
    In our times the question of “women’s rights” has taken on new significance in the broad context of the rights of the human person. The biblical and evangelical message sheds light on this cause, which is the object of much attention today, by safeguarding the truth about the “unity” of the “two”, that is to say the truth about that dignity and vocation that result from the specific diversity and personal originality of man and woman. Consequently, even the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words “He shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the “masculinization” of women. In the name of liberation from male “domination”, women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine “originality”. There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not “reach fulfilment”, but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. It is indeed an enormous richness. In the biblical description, the words of the first man at the sight of the woman who had been created are words of admiration and enchantment, words which fill the whole history of man on earth.

    The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her “fulfilment” as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the “image and likeness of God” that is specifically hers. The inheritance of sin suggested by the words of the Bible – “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” – can be conquered only by following this path. The overcoming of this evil inheritance is, generation after generation, the task of every human being, whether woman or man. For whenever man is responsible for offending a woman’s personal dignity and vocation, he acts contrary to his own personal dignity and his own vocation.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/1988/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19880815_mulieris-dignitatem_en.html

  5. Father, I don’t know if it can help. Anyway I would like to share with you and your readers this catechesis/preaching about the women’s dignity as well about feminism.
    45 – A dignidade da mulher
    http://youtu.be/MgwRduVEBAk

  6. “For whenever man is responsible for offending a woman’s personal dignity and vocation, he acts contrary to his own personal dignity and his own vocation.”

    ~I wrote from personal experience.

  7. When I said I wasn’t speaking/writing by myself or by my personal experience, I meant that for you understand feminism, due of its wide reach (large range), you just can’t start from your all experience. Personal expirience is not enough for understand feminism. Feminism nowadays is something more than just fight for women rights. It is part of th Gender Ideology (ideologia de gênero). It has destroyed as men’s identity as women identity. Feminism and Gender Ideology has tryied to even (nivelar) men and women. It’s a complex social engineering you can understand properly through a serious study. That’s why I mentioned Fr. Azevedo (Fr. Paulo Ricardo de Azevedo). He has made a very serious work of apologetics.
    I have always been a gettle man for women. And I had always been waiting that women would apreciate this chivarious treatment for then. However what I have seen is that the most of women haven’t been mind with chilvary. Why has that happened? Of course the situation between men and women nowadays don’t resume on how they treat each other. But that exemple can help to understand the social engeeniring that has changed radically as men’s identity as women’s identity.
    Don’t take my comment as something personal against you, ok? I have been saying that because I have seen how many confusion has been sowing/spreading between men and women. That’s not God’s design for both of then.

  8. My original post has nothing to do with feminism. It has to do with being disappointed in the lack of chivalry in today’s society. I assure you I am every bit a lady.

    Example: “Upset with you, because I didn’t say ^$*^#$? One thing I can never accuse you of is lack of femininity. You are a woman through and through.”

    I rest my case.

  9. Not upset…..

    dis·il·lu·sioned :
    Disappointed in someone or something that one discovers to be less good than one had believed.

  10. The first thing I thought of when I read this was that right after I got my driver’s license my dad made sure that I knew how to change a tire. I have changed a few tires over the years (my choice). I would rather be like the strong, courageous women saints that I have read about. Although, I have always been very fond of the vision in Rev. 19.

    In Christ,
    Marian

  11. Given the choice: I’ll let a man exhibit his strength and courtesy out for me any day. Ever see the glow a man gets when he’s assisted a woman?

    Your note about being strong like the women saints: The Holy Mother of God crushes satan with Her profound humility, and perfect virtues, not the physical strength of her arm.
    She is called “Lady”. I’d rather be like Her.

  12. “It is the mission of each true knight…
    His duty… nay, his privilege!
    To dream the impossible dream,
    To fight the unbeatable foe,
    To bear with unbearable sorrow
    To run where the brave dare not go;
    To right the unrightable wrong.

    To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
    To try, when your arms are too weary,
    To reach the unreachable star!

    This is my Quest to follow that star,
    No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
    To fight for the right
    Without question or pause,
    To be willing to march into hell
    For a heavenly cause!

    And I know, if I’ll only be true
    To this glorious Quest,
    That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
    When I’m laid to my rest.

    And the world will be better for this,
    That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
    Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
    To reach the unreachable stars!”
    ― Joe Darion, Man of La Mancha

  13. The lyrics above are from “The Impossible Dream”.

    Dedicated to every serviceman who gives his life to keep us free. To all dads who make their daughters feel like princess’, and to every priest who dares to teach others the meaning of Marian Chivalry. God bless them all.

    May dad sang this song with such love and conviction…..my hero!

  14. What a faux pas (blunder). My husband just told me that the individual above is no knight. 😦

  15. I am going to try to maker this as clear as possible one last time. I will not mention this again. I will just delete comments. Please stay on topic.

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