Today is the Sunday of Forgiveness. This is the Sunday that we clean our hearts and our minds of anything that we might be holding against our neighbors or against ourselves. As Christians, we are not to hold grudges or even the memory of past hurts and the things that others have done against us. No one is without fault, and as much blame as you pile on others we need to pile on ourselves. I have said this before, but it bears repeating, we can all use confession, and if we think we do not need it, we are guilty of the sin of pride. At the end of the Liturgy, today, rather than the usual blessing, we will all as each other for forgiveness and we will readily give forgiveness to one another If I have offended anyone by my words or actions I humbly as for your forgiveness and I ask for your prayers.
But today we also celebrate one of the greatest saints of the western world. Prior to the Great Schism of 1054 the Church was one universal church. The Church was divided by geography and not by theology. The Church is the west was developing along one path and the Church of the east along another. Prior to the great sin of Schism, many holy men and women walked on the earth, and one of those is St. Patrick of Ireland. It has been said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s day, and as a Scotsman you have no idea how hard it was for me to say that!
However, I am comforted by the fact that Saint Patrick was in reality born in Kilpatrick in Dumbarton, wait for it, located in Scotland! It would seem that this great saint of the Irish was in fact born on Scottish soil. However, Scotland’s greatest saint, Columba was born on Irish soil, so I guess the trade was worthy, unlike some of those of the Patriots this past week. An interesting fact, neither one wanted to leave their native soil but St. Patrick was captured and brought to Ireland and St. Columba, as the legend goes, was exiled for his role in failed military battle against the king. Obviously God had other plans for these two.
There are many legends associated with Patrick, the leprechauns, driving the snakes out, and others such things but perhaps the greatness of his legacy remains in the writings that he has left behind. Through the pen of St. Patrick and his life, we learn about forgiveness, simplicity, confession, and humility.
St. Patrick had a remarkable insight and devotion to the Trinity. In the Icon of St. Patrick he is depicted holding the three leaf clover, not a four leaf clover as Hallmark would like you to believe. The three leaf clover was what Patrick used to teach his followers about the Trinity. A single stem with thee leaves branching off. Each leaf is separate but gets it nourishment and its very life, from the single stem. This very basic teaching has been passed down and has helped countless generations understand something that is almost incomprehensible, how can three be one?
After Patrick’s consecration as bishop, he was attacked for a sin that he confessed. No one is quite sure what this sin was but whatever it was he committed the sin when he was but 15 years old. He confessed this sin to a friend, and in jealousy this “friend” told people about it. St. Patrick was betrayed by this “friend” but, in his own humble way, he forgave this person and it is from that single simple action that we learn so much about character of this great man. We simply need to forgive not matter what has been done to us, no matter who it was that did it, we must forgive.
But the most famous of all his writings is the Lorica or the Breastplate of St. Patrick. The story is that St. Patrick and his followers used this prayer to defend themselves from those who wished to destroy them as the traveled across Ireland. The words of this prayer show St. Patrick’s deep love and knowledge of the Trinity and gives us a glimpse into the theological mind of this great saint.
It is simply a prayer of consecration to the Holy Trinity as the first words are “I bind myself today to the strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity.” The readers of this prayer are dedicating themselves to the Trinity and all that means for them and for us.
The prayer continues as they bind themselves to the Incarnation of Christ, His baptism, crucifixion, burial, and His resurrection. They go on to bind themselves to the preaching of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, confessors and the deeds of righteous men. To the power of heaven, the light of the sun, the brightness of the moon.
They bind themselves to God’s power to guide, uphold, teach, to watch over them, and to keep them safe from all manner of evil.
Then comes the most famous part of the prayer,
Christ with me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ within me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left
In other words, I surround myself with Christ and His power to defend me!
This is the purpose of the season we start tomorrow, a closer walk and relationship with Jesus Christ, and we only realize that close relationship if we truly dedicate ourselves to Him, not just today, but every day.
Most of the world will celebrate this revered Saint today with a parade and possibly having drinks in a bar. Very few people will step foot into a church and bind themselves to the thing that St. Patrick loved so much, the Trinity! It is unfortunate that when we think of St. Patrick the first thoughts that come to mind very often is the drink and not the Trinity. But, for those of us here today, we have the opportunity to remember for different reasons. Today we will forgive each other, we will begin Great Lent with a clean slate towards one another, and I pray, we bind ourselves, as St. Patrick did, to the most Holy Trinity.
I bind myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity
I believe the Trinity in Unity
The Creator of the Universe.