Imħabba Dejjiema 
by Ġorġ Grech OCSO (self-published, Gozo 2019)

‘Liberator of captives, and defender of the poor, physician of the sick, trophy bearer’ and so many others are a few of the titles attributed to St George, the fourth-century military martyr saint whose tomb at Lydda, now Lod, in western Palestine, has attracted pilgrims and visitors at least since the fifth century. Strange, indeed weird, for a saint whom Swiss reformer John Calvin called ‘larva’ (meaning scarecrow) and English historian Edward Gibbon brushed aside intending to cast into oblivion.

Within this context, Fra George Grech’s monograph Imħabba Dejjiema stands in contrast considering that the book, which is many ways an anthology of poems accompanied by short essays of Christian apologia, expresses the love of a Trappist monk for a saint whose cult in both Western and Eastern Christianity has spread like wildfire since its very beginning.

Gozitan-born Fra George has been a member of the Cistercian Reformed Community of the Strict Observance at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Frattochie, in the vicinity of Rome, for the last 32 years. He is from Victoria, Gozo, and since he was young, he felt the call for the contemplative life. His congregation is also known as the Trappists. 

The mystics are with us to stay and during this year’s festivity of St George in Victoria, they have been indeed marching in!

As a contemplative within the Benedictine tradition, Fra George’s main calling is to be a contemplative. Imħabba Dejjiema is the reflection of a contemplative love for God, a love which is incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ and the saints who are united with him in the communio sanctorum. In this case, it is St George who catches the undivided attention of the contemplative soul in such a way that the soul falls in love with he who shed his blood for the Eternal Bridegroom.

Grech follows in the footsteps of great saints such as St Brigit of Sweden, St Andrew of Crete and St Theodore of Skyeone, to mention just a few, who throughout the ages, sang beautiful hymns and wrote appropriate prayers of praise in honour of him whom St John Chrysostom nicknamed corypheus sive caput inter martyres, meaning head or prince among martyrs. 

It is difficult to say under what category Grech’s monograph may be categorised. It is a splendid piece of religious literature as much as it is the work of a contemplative spirit seeking unity only with He who is pure Truth, Beauty and Goodness. If there is a statement that I can safely use to describe his work, I would conclude by saying that Imħabba Dejjiema is the ideal book for a Christian who seeks to walk in the ‘via pulchritudinis’ in a world that lacks stability and inner peace.  As a contemplative in his own right, Grech’s book is a book like no other; reading some of its poems more than once, I could sense that contemplative souls are rare but not yet extinct – as we have it, the mystics are with us to stay and during this year’s festivity of St George in Victoria, they have been indeed marching in!

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