For many, St. Patrick’s Day is all about going green. Green hair, green flags, green clothes, green jewelry, green cookies and most importantly, green beer. Every year since 1962, Chicago dyes the Chicago River green. However, the truth and meaning of the holiday remains hidden within the green shamrock.
Patrick was born to a British Roman Catholic family towards the end of the 4th century. When he was 16, Irish raiders attacked his town and kidnapped him. Patrick was taken as a slave to Ireland where he was forced into being a shepherd.
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During this time, Patrick stated, “the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God.”
After six years in Ireland, Patrick claimed the voice of God told him to leave. Without hesitation, he escaped, walking 200 miles to a port where a ship took him to Britain. However, Patrick’s journey was just beginning.
Soon after, Patrick claimed an angel visited him in a dream, this time telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary. He spent the next 15 years studying the priesthood. His extensive schooling partially resulted from Patrick trying to avoid his call from God, much like Jonah had done before him. His apprehension was understandable, due to his prior enslavement. Regardless, he finally put his faith in God and left for Ireland upon his ordination.
A nature-based pagan religion dominated the region where Patrick ministered. Paul instructed the Corinthians to “put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” (2 Corinthians 6:3) Patrick realized forcing them to throw away everything they knew and starting from scratch would be a “stumbling block” for most. Instead, following Paul, Patrick redefined familiar symbols with the Gospel.
The sun represented an important emblem to the people. Patrick combined a sun with a cross, creating the well-known Celtic Cross. He preached whatever life-giving powers they believed came from the sun are actually found in the cross. Thus redirecting their worship of creation back to the Creator.
However, Patrick’s most famous analogy relates to the Trinity, or Triune God.
We know from scripture there is only one God:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45:5)
Yet in Genesis 1:26, God says “Let US make mankind in our image, in our likeness,” denoting the plurality of God. (emphasis mine in all verses)
That plurality is found in three separate persons:
- God the Father (Galatians 1:1)
- The Word (Jesus) was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:1, 14)
- Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit . . . ? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3–4)
At Jesus’ baptism, we see all three persons at once, confirming their distinctness.
After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matt 3:16-17)
Jesus includes all three entities while instituting the Great Commission.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19)
Paul also emphasizes the Trinity in his Final Greeting in 2 Corinthians 13:14:
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
God tells us: “And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.” (Isaiah 45:21)
But, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
So either God and Jesus are both Saviors, or together they are our only God and Savior. As Jesus clearly proclaims, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30), he is telling us it is the latter.
Many today still struggle with the concept of three entities in one God. As legend has it, so did the Irish Patrick ministered to.
“You tell us that there are three gods and yet one,” the puzzled Irish said when St. Patrick was preaching the gospel to them in the 5th century AD. “How can that be?” The saint bent down and plucked a shamrock. “Do you not see,” he said, “how in this wildflower three leaves are united on one stalk, and will you not then believe that there are indeed three persons and yet one God?”
Patrick used the 3-leaf clover to demonstrate the awesomeness of God to unbelievers. In one simple object, he revealed the beauty of our Heavenly Father, His only Son, and the Holy Ghost as separate entities yet one God. Patrick illustrated how the three leaves are at the same time, one leaf.
If they were not all God, then we would be worshiping three gods. To accept this would go against all other scripture professing “one true God.”
As stated in St. Patrick’s Confession:
“For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.”
Patrick is credited for taking Christianity to Ireland. Yet his mission described ministering to both believers and nonbelievers. Nevertheless, Patrick converted and baptized thousands. He spread the Gospel, producing over 300 churches. As a result, even as an Englishman, St. Patrick’s imprint forever remains in Ireland and its culture.
Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, is believed to have died on March 17th, which is his Feast Day. Once again, the world has distorted a traditional Church holiday, removing and denying its Christian roots and replacing them with secular festivities.
Even for non-Catholics, every such holiday is an opportunity for Christians to put aside differences for a higher purpose; sharing the Gospel with those who may have never heard it. Many symbols and emblems displayed often come from traditions started in the church. They are given to us by God to start the conversation. The question is, how many of us will?
But that’s just my 2 cents.