Although it is not officially until march 17 that St. Patrick is celebrated, let’s talk about him a bit shall we? Today, my city is hosting their annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. If I had not messed up my knee yesterday, I just might have attended the celebration. Something I never would have done before I started my journey into Orthodox Christianity.
I never used to give, St. Patrick much thought before I became an Orthodox Christian. like most ‘good’ Protestants, the celebration of saints was something, ‘those other people did’. I never wore green and I dared anyone to be foolish enough to pinch me. To my protestant eyes, St. Patrick’s Day was just another excuse for people to get drunk and behave badly. It didn’t really seem to mean much to those who celebrated it beyond green beer and kissing. I always thought of him as a Catholic/Irish saint and I was neither Catholic… nor Irish. Why celebrate him? Turns out, St. Patrick is an Orthodox Christian saint. No, really. Read about him HERE.
A couple of years ago, before I began my Orthodox journey, I watched an animated movie; The Secret of Kells. It is a movie about the illuminated manuscript of the four gospels. It sparked two things within me; 1. the desire to learn more about calligraphy & illuminated manuscripts, 2. I became intrigued by the passion of people to create such a beautiful work of art & to die/risk their lives to protect it. Such passions are not ignited within the context of evangelical/charismatic circles. It’s as if these sects of Protestantism have no history to celebrate; no examples to read about, and to be encourage by, in one’s walk of faith. At least… not openly.
In the Orthodox Church, the lives of saints are read, studied, and celebrated in an effort to emulate these pillars of Christianity. Growing up in Protestantism, it was almost like a treasure hunt to try and find people of valor to read about, that is how deep the fear of saint/icon worship runs within these communities.
St. Patrick was kidnapped and taken into slavery at the young age of 16. How terrifying to be separated from friends, and family and not to know from one day to the next if he would be killed. He finally escaped and made it back to his home. Instead of returning years later and burning down the villages where he was once held captive and/or killing the inhabitants, he evangelized Ireland bringing to its people the Light of God. Talk about loving one’s enemies.
I am so thankful that I have begun my journey into Orthodox Christianity. I had an inkling of the darkness of Protestantism while I was still a Protestant (things said from the pulpit (that there is even a pulpit) and done within the church, were not aligning with scripture). However, one has no concept of how dark darkness truly is until they step into the light.
I now know how much of church history has been lost within Protestantism simply by ignoring saints. So many questions are answered when one studies the saints. How do I pray? How can I live a more ascetic life? Look to the saints. In Protestantism, only what, Jesus did is considered worthy of study. What, Jesus did was amazing and is of course worthy of study and emulation. As the Son of God, what, Jesus did was perfect and without blemish. The saints give us an example of how we can overcome the passions of the flesh, of this world, from the perspective of ones who are themselves imperfect.
When I’m having a particularly bad day, I look at St. Ignatius and I think, ‘yes, I’m having a bad day, but at least lions are not chewing on my bones’.
St. Patrick is perhaps the most well known of saints. He is even known by those who are not religious due to the, almost, world wide celebration of him once a year. If you want to know more about the Orthodox Church before actually stepping inside of an Orthodox Church, start reading about the saints. You can head over to the websites of the Orthodox Church in America or, the Orthodox Christian Network for daily information about which saints are being remembered. I encourage you, no matter what your religious background, to find out more about the early Christian Church and the saints who lived and died for her.