I have the privilege this year of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland this year.
This has long been a dream of mine and thanks to a kind and generous friend (and supportive wife) I will be taking in the sounds, sights and spirits in Dublin on March 17th.
I have also longed to visit Ireland to learn more about its rich cultural and religious history. Though damaged by religious and political divisions and still scarred by the remnants of anger and hostility, much reconciliation has occurred and often through the Church.
The recent critically-acclaimed movie Calvary delves into this topic and I would recommend the viewing.
But since this is Saint Patrick’s Day, I wanted to write briefly about the story behind the celebration…the man called Patrick. If you have never read or familiarized yourself with his life, I highly recommend it.
Once kidnapped in slavery at age 16 and brought from his home in England to the land of savages in Ireland, Patrick had visions from God that gave him strength and lead to his escape.
So inspired and moved by God once home, he felt compelled to return as a missionary to preach the gospel to a land that had never heard the message of Christ before. The story continues and his writings are full of profound insights, theology, prayers, and confessions that challenge and inspire me deeply. I have included at the end a hymn written by, or least attributed to Patrick from around 430 AD.
It should also be noted that Patrick was not recognized as a “Saint” until decades later, did not drive out snakes since there were none in Ireland at the time, did not use the 3 leaf clover to describe the Trinity, and was basically kicked out of the priesthood for failure to submit to authority. He was however a great contextual theologian and missionary who reached an entire people for the Kingdom of God!
We have much to learn and celebrate from the rich and diverse history of our faith. The traditions of past and present, while different from our own, provide a wonderful opportunity for our faith to increase.
This national “holiday” of sorts, Saint Patrick’s Day has given me an opportunity and invitation to expand the horizons of my congregation as we learn together to appreciate what God has been doing through his servants throughout the centuries. Of course, we can also expand our food and spirits horizons at your local Irish pub!
So, as you listen to U2 or The Cranberries (depending on your style) and raise a pint of Guinness thank God for examples like Patrick, and may we all follow the example of a life of obedience, sacrifice, servant hood, faith, prayer, and mission.
I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the Cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour;
The service of the Seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death-wound and the burning
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.
If you get the chance, go up to Northern Ireland and visit the St. Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.
If you have time, go up into Northern Ireland and visit the St. Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.