It seems that few today know the origins of Saint Patrick’s Day and the man whose day we celebrate. The following article by Professor Edith M. Humphrey can remedy that for us. And it does so not in just a Wikipedia sort of way but in a manner which captures the spiritual essence of the life and mission of the man and his evangelistic mission. Dr. Edith M. Humphrey is Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. She is an active member of the Orthodox Church (attending St. George’s Antiochian Church, Oakland). Her article appeared at: blogs.ancientfaith.com as: St. Patrick, Natural Icons and the Sacramental Creation. RMF
St. Patrick, Natural Icons and the Sacramental Creation
Readings: Isaiah 13:2-13; Genesis 8:4-21; Proverbs 10:31-11:12
St. Patrick, the Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland, was born as a slave in Britain—either Scotland or Wales— between 385 and 390, travelled to Ireland in response to the call of God, eventually became bishop of the area of Armagh, in Northern Ireland, and died, having braved many dangers for Christ, on March 17, 461. Today his name is, alas, associated with carousing and noise, activities that deformed his feast-day, perhaps as those weary with Lent sought a release from fasting! Because of the uproarious nature of the popular holiday, the bishop’s lasting legacy as a primary missionary in Ireland is almost forgotten, except for the wearing of the green (with a touch of orange, if you hail from Northern Ireland), and a fleeting association with the shamrock.
The Kontakion [a form of hymn performed in the Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches that follow the Byzantine Rite. RMF] for his feast-day is instructive:
From slavery you escaped to freedom in Christ’s service:
He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil’s bondage.
You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts.
In your journeys and hardships you rivaled the Apostle Paul!
Having received the reward for your labors in heaven,
Never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth,
Holy Bishop Patrick!
The celebratory atmosphere of the contemporary St. Patrick’s day celebration is a distortion of the positive approach to God’s creation that we see in the Saint. Though an imperfect symbol, the shamrock, a three-in-one plant, was close at hand everywhere, and became a useful bridge by which St. Patrick could lift their eyes to the Triune God, the Creator of all. We also see St. Patrick’s celebration of God’s world in that famous hymn called the Lorica, or Breastplate of St. Patrick. The story goes that this luminous Continue reading