Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Valerie Jones
This year St. Patrick’s Day is a little different for me. I usually decorate with green and shamrocks, then prepare a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal like corned beef and potatoes. Not today, and that is alright, because my husband is taking me on a day trip out of town! We will be visiting one of our favorite downtown shopping strips that houses a yummy brick oven pizza joint and an indulgent dessert shop.  Just a few treasures from where we spent our first anniversary together.

I will gladly let St. Patrick’s Day take a back seat to special moments with my husband! However, I am still a bit Irish and want to at least recognize the day. ;-)

Today is also different for me this year because of my recent trip to Ireland. Instead of dreaming about the lush Irish landscape, I experienced it. I saw the history, enjoyed the people and delighted in the food. So I don’t feel much of a need to create an Irish experience here and now….just remember it.

One of my favorite spots in Ireland was the Rock of Cashel, or Carraig Phádraig (St. Patrick’s Rock). This is reputedly the site where St. Patrick converted Aenghus the King of Muster to Christianity (in the 5th century AD). It was used as a fortress until 1101when the king donated it to the Church. There are now evidences of the chapel, cathedral and the picturesque graveyard still standing. Such beautiful history and sacred architecture is at this site.

Valerie Jones
Much that is celebrated on St. Patrick’s is folklore and twisted tradition for the sake of celebration. I read somewhere that while historically the Irish did commemorate the death of St. Patrick and recognize the saint in Sunday services, the holiday as we know it began with Irish Americans as a means to celebrate national identity. Now it is an excuse to drink a lot of beer and dye everything green.

I prefer to look at what St. Patrick represents. He was born in Britain and captured to serve in Ireland as a sheep farmer at 16 years of age. After some time, he escaped Ireland then followed God’s leading to return as a missionary. While much of his life as a missionary is unknown, two things seem to be consistent. For one, he faced constant persecution from both the British and the Irish. 

Also, in his ministry he sought to meet the people where they were in order to share the Gospel. Instead of eradicating pagan practices completely, he redeemed the meanings of certain symbols and objects to represent the truth in the Scripture. Although it is disputed if these are folklore or truth, it is said St. Patrick is the one that superimposed the image of the sun over the cross creating the Celtic Cross, as well as using the shamrock to explain the Trinity.

Valerie Jones
I love studying examples of such humility and diligence in service to God. I am sure St. Patrick was not perfect and he is not to be idolized (no one is). But I am inspired by other servants of Christ…and thankful for those who are obedient to God’s calling. It makes me think of what I am doing (or not doing) to minister to those around me.

While most of us will never be classified as a “saint” by a church, those who are of the body of Christ are all saints. The word “saint” means “consecrated to God, sacred, holy”. We are all set apart to do the work of the Lord. 

Valerie Jones
So this St. Patrick’s Day, celebrate the life of a man who did the work of the Lord and introduced many Irish people to Christ. Also consider your own calling and ministry – this is something to be celebrated as well.


Lyrics on St. Patrick's Breastplate

I arise today Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth
    with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion
    with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection
     with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent
     for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me:
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today
     all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power
     that may oppose my body and soul
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts
    man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me
     abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man
     who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone
     who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
     the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Saint Patrick's Breastplate is a Christian hymn whose original Latin lyrics were reportedly written by Saint Patrick during his Irish ministry in the 5th century. The words were translated into English verse in 1906. The hymn is currently included in the English Hymnal, the Irish Church Hymnal and The Hymnal (1982) of the U.S. Episcopal Church. The words are based on Saint Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 6 verse 11, where Paul mentions putting on the "whole armor of God." (Source)