Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Today's post could focus on the contemporary experience of St. Patrick's Day in the U.S. - the wearing of the green, the parades, the parties, the drinking songs. Instead I want to look back at the true meaning of the day, the religious aspects, that so often get lost in the worldly celebration. Of course, there's nothing wrong with celebration - we do live in the world - as long as it's done in moderation while we keep the origins of the day in mind. Enjoy.

If you do nothing else with this post, at least listen to the remarkably powerful hymn.

The Reverend Paul Prange, Chair of the Board for Ministerial Education, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, has this to say about St. Patrick:

When it comes to St. Patrick, truth may be stranger than fiction.
Born in Scotland, he grew up as a Christian but was not too serious about his faith. His life changed suddenly at age sixteen when he was kidnapped by Irish pirates. For six years he labored as a slave, tending pigs and sheep. He began to value the Christian faith in which he had been raised. When he escaped from slavery, he made his way to the coast, got a job on a ship, and returned to his family in Scotland.
Back in Scotland, he could not get Ireland out of his mind. The love of Christ was compelling him to share with his former captors the promises of God that had come to mean so much to him while he lived among them. After studying the Bible for nearly 20 years, he went back to Ireland a free man, and he never left.
Patrick baptized thousands of people. He helped to organize congregations all over Ireland, and worked hard to train and ordain men to serve as ministers of the gospel. Among his converts were wealthy women who became Christians in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the royal family of the time, instructing them in the truths of the faith.
It is very unlikely that he drove all of the snakes out of Ireland. He probably did not wear green all of the time. But the historical truths of his life are inspiring, and cause us to give thanks to God for faithful missionaries.

Today's music is St. Patrick's Breastplate, a 19th century hymn based on words attributed to him.

St. Patrick's Breastplate

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 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.

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 today
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.

Our literary piece comes from the opening paragraphs of the Confession, one of two extant documents written by St. Patrick. The translation from the Latin in by Ludwig Bieler. 

I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.
I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people---and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers. 
And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.Hence I cannot be silent---nor, indeed, is it expedient---about the great benefits and the great grace which the lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven. 
Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name. 
For He Himself has said through the Prophet: Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. And again He says: It is honourable to reveal and confess the works of God. 
Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire. 
And so I should dread exceedingly, with fear and trembling, this sentence on that day when no one will be able to escape or hide, but we all, without exception, shall have to give an account even of our smallest sins before the judgement of the Lord Christ.

Here is a link to the remaining eight pages describing his journey from slave to missionary.


Photos and Illustrations:

Prange comment, welslutherans site, Facebook

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