المدوّنات

المدوّنات

St Patrick: Revealer of the Holy Trinity

St Patrick is not only a saint for the Irish or for Roman Catholics. He is verily an Orthodox Saint and celebrated on March 17. He lived from the late 4th Century until the late 5th Century. Patrick was actually from Wales, not Ireland but was taken captive by pirates to Ireland. He was actually sold as a slave and made a herder of swine. It was during his time as a slave that he became proficient in the Irish language.
 
After six years of enslavement, by God’s intervention, Patrick was able to escape. He went to Gaul (present-day France) where he struggled in monasticism and studied at seminary. Patrick later returned back to Ireland where he was made Bishop of Armagh. He was not the first missionary or only missionary to Ireland. He replaced St Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland who was not successful in his missionary work. 
 
Patrick became known as the “Enlightener of Ireland” because he had the greatest influence and success in preaching the Gospel of Christ. He established many monasteries and churches throughout Ireland. This was not an easy task since there were many pagans in pursuit to execute Patrick. 
 
Yet, after thirty long years of struggle, sacrifice and commitment, St Patrick transformed Ireland from a pagan land to a Christian nation. With humility he always referred to himself as a sinner and as someone who was despised by many.
 
St Patrick lived just after the era of the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. Both Nicaea (325 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD) were Councils dealing with the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet, Patrick revealed the mystery of the Holy Trinity through the image of a shamrock. For he explained that the three leaves grow out of a single stem. Thus, there is one God in Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 
 
We can see in many icons of St Patrick, him beholding a shamrock. Patrick certainly proclaimed the wisdom of these two great Councils in his preaching. 
 
Many people presume that St Patrick is a Roman Catholic Saint, especially for Irish Catholics.  This certainly is not accurate. Since he is a pre-Schism Saint, he is regarded as an Orthodox Saint. Pre-schism refers to any time prior to when the Great Schism of 1054 between East and West occurred. The East being what is now regarded as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the West being the Roman Catholic Church. Since Ireland is today predominantly Roman Catholic, St Patrick is more celebrated in that Church.
 

St Patrick is known for his Breastplate Prayer which is found in Orthodox prayer books:

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 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, Christ when I sit, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me. Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me. Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Salvation is of the Lord, Salvation is of the Christ, May your salvation, O Lord be ever with us. Amen.

In American culture, St Patrick’s Day unfortunately has been associated as a day to drink alcoholic beverages. The Saint is even erroneously depicted as a leprechaun which is a mischievous fictional character. It is sad to see such a great saint depicted in such a disparaging way. His feast usually falls during Great Lent and we should seek his intercessions to help us through this challenging time in our spiritual journey.
 
As Orthodox faithful, let us venerate this great Saint with piety and love. St Patrick was very much a great missionary, ascetic and hierarch.  
 
The Master revealed thee as a skillful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who honour thy memory. (Festal Kontakion)
 
May St Patrick intercede before the Lord and enlighten us all!
 
-John Athanasatos 
 
A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.

 

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