Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Testimony Worth Sharing (The truth of St. Patrick's Day)

With my passion for the people of Ireland I have put much efforts into studying about the history of the religious development in the nation. Not many people are actually aware of it, and so today I'd like to share a little about one man who has become internationally recognized, though hardly known. 
St Patrick was a forerunner of Christ, leading Ireland into historically the longest and most influential 24-7 prayer movement in the world; which also sent out the largest number of missionaries during the Dark Ages affecting all of Europe. He was a man who believed in Jesus Christ and who is the most generally recognized patron saint or the Apostle of Ireland. Today, March 17th, we celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, the date of Patrick's death both inside and outside Ireland, as both a liturgical and non-liturgical holiday. Celebrating a man who dedicated his life to the ministry of the Lord, somehow the world's taken to celebrating him with "mystical creatures", wearing green, and getting drunk. I took a look at what the and the Bangor Antiphonary said about this man and wanted to share the testimony of the man's life who we celebrate today. 

St. Patrick: Taken Prisoner By Irish Raiders: It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.

St. Patrick: Guided By Visions: After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice—which he believed to be God's—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.

To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation—an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)

St. Patrick: Bonfires and Crosses: Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick's life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.

From the Bangor Antiphonary:
There is a legend told of St Patrick that he and his companions came one day to a certain valley to rest. Suddenly "they beheld the valley filled with a heavenly light and with a multitude of the host of heaven they heard, as chanted forth from the voice of angels, the psalmody of the celestial choir".

They named the place "Vallis Angelorum" – the Valley of the Angels. In the process of time there was built in this valley a holy place – called Bangor.
Excellent the Rule of Benchor,
Correct, and divine,
Exact, holy, constant,
Exalted, just, and admirable.

Blessed the family of Benchor,
Founded on unerring faith,
Graced with the hope of salvation,
Perfect in charity.

While the world celebrates "Ireland" & "Saint Patrick," I believe that even Patrick would agree that the true celebration is of God! Patrick's testimony is one that shows a life filled with earthly wealth, thrown into the lowest as a slaver, in his depths he turned to the Lord's counsel and protection which directed him to freedom! Then he gives what God gave him, his freedom, and giving it all back to Him, surrenders his life to the service of the Lord Most High; and now he has been eternally blessed - with a world-renowned name that continues to spread the gospel through a testimony of God's goodness! Lets not succumb to the blind celebrations of green beers, leprechauns, and rainbows, rather using the celebration of this man as a tool to share the gospel with the world! For our God is worthy of the fame! 
                    Love Always

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