Today is a really fun day to be an Orthodox Christian, because though we commemorate the saints (think about it like talking reverently about your grandmother or great-grandfather) every day, today's saint we commemorate is one who's been memorialized for one reason or another, around much of the world, especially in the United States, where our bus driver during our Ireland trip very notably told us 82 million Americans can trace their (our) roots back to Ireland. Maybe we love Saint Patrick so much because we know it hearkens back to our roots.
Though much of the United States celebrates this day by pinching each other and having a pint (or 3) of Guinness, we Orthodox Christians remember Saint Patrick as the Enlightener of Ireland, one who carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Emerald Isle.
Here's an icon of him, pictured as older, found in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Ireland has a beautiful history, including those who speculate that the prophet Jeremiah sailed up there with a descendant of King David, Teia Tephi, who was called "queen of Tara (in Ireland) and Gibraltar (a peninsula south of Spain)." I know there are some which will conclusively say that is purely legend, but only deep research will illuminate that as truth or fiction. I myself have not done that research yet, but people I trust have, so I will report it as legend, and let you dig on your own, for now.
Anyway, we all agree that Ireland's history and culture is rich and beautiful, much like its countryside. It remains my favorite country that I have ever visited, and I would return in a heartbeat.
Saint Patrick lived a very rough life as a child, having grown up "in a high class" in Scotland, and then being sold into slavery at 16. While tending sheep as that slave, he prayed often, and came to faith in Christ on his own in the countryside. He then returned to Ireland after receiving clerical training, and, living as a monk, loved the Irish, and brought God (back) to the countryside. One might wonder, if the lineage of David established in Ireland circa 588 BC, what happened in the over thousand years between then and when St. Patrick brought Christ to the isle? One can only wonder.
Saint Patrick most notably taught the essence of the Trinity to the Druids in the area, using a shamrock. Here's an icon of him I thought you might enjoy; remember, the shamrock is depicting the essence of the Trinity. One shamrock, three leaves. Take one leaf off, the shamrock is not a shamrock.
I love Saint Patrick's Day! In our house, we commemorate the actual life Saint Patrick lived. Yes, we wear green and pinch each other, but we celebrate the dedication of this saint to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who directed this saint's life in service to God and in spreading the good news of the Gospel to Ireland. What a beautiful story his life also paints of redemption and usefulness upon dedication to the Lord's use.
Now, will people have a beer today? Probably! There's a whole history related to beer and fasting. March 17 often falls during the Fast of Great Lent, and on a day like today, being Wednesday, even when it's not during Great Lent, today is a fast day. During the fast, one abstains from animal products, oil, and wine. That's a simplified explanation because right now we are fasting from meat but not dairy, etc. LOL! Simplify it and think of animal products. Monks made beer to get nutrients during a fast. It was literally to sustain them. We'll leave it at that for this blog post; I didn't write this to write about beer, initially, although we're ending where we started. Ha!
We will have a great day, we will celebrate Christ, who called Saint Patrick to evangelize to Ireland, and we'll commemorate and renew ourselves to obedience and faithfulness as we see in Saint Patrick!
How do you commemorate Saint Patrick's Day? What did you learn in this post that you did not know before? Comment below to share your contributions!