How the Irish saved civilization
St Patrick’s Day, March 17, fell on the second Sunday in Lent. We recognized it then, but he really does belong here among ‘Barbarians R Us’, in the 5th century, the 400’s, of ‘Education and Elaboration’.
St Patrick, contemporary of Cyril, planted the seeds of future salvaging of the church in Ireland, as Cyril sabotaged the future unity of the church far to the east. Born in Wales, slave of the Celts in Ireland as a teen, escaped to France for monastic training, he returned to Ireland as a missionary. You’ll find plenty of hagiography about those legendary narratives.
‘How the Irish Saved Civilization’ popularized Patrick’s tale of indigenized Christian tradition within Celtic spirituality. He is credited with organizing the church to fit a clan society. We might call it ‘culturally sensitive’ mission. It was preserved in Iona and Lindisfarne abbeys and monasteries for the next couple of centuries often called ‘Dark Ages’, to equip a 7th century mission back to Europe.
What if West Indian, Asian and African immigrants to Canada, whose Protestant roots were nurtured by colonial missionaries of the 19th century, are offering us the focus we’ve lost in our modern ‘establishment’ age? Perhaps our welcome of ‘intercultural ministry’ will save our souls!
“Patrick’s Breastplate” devotional prayer attributed to Patrick. We still sing it at least once a year as the hymn ‘I Bind Myself’. Can you see how it restates much of the same affirmation of faith as the Athanasian Creed which began this week?
I arise today
through the strength of heaven:
light of sun, radiance of moon,
splendor of fire, speed of lightning,
swiftness of wind, depth of sea,
stability of earth, firmness of rock.
I arise today
through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
from snares of devils,
from temptations of vices,
from everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in multitude.
Christ to shield me today
so that there may come to me
abundance of reward.
Christ 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 down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the threeness,
through confession of the oneness
of the creator of Creation.
What is essential to the faith,
and what is ‘cultural baggage’?
Rather than ditch or change baggage like some consumer choice,
why not compare and celebrate ours and others?