Sunday Sermonizing: St. Patrick, Spirituality, and Lenten Prayers (vol. 5)
Prayer for the Time Between Times
My daughter and I had a conversation yesterday. It was about the odd and (for me) interesting way Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
Everything from the Chicago River to beer turns green. There are pubs around the country who may have their biggest day of the year on this day. She overheard two ladies in the restroom saying the American festival of green was a "favorite holiday."
It seems everyone in America is Irish (or at least 5% Irish) on March 17th.
To The girl's point, it's important to remember the Irish are generally not even all that fond of Americans. We've historically sided with England on a bit too much. This means we may not always be viewed in the best light over there.
We are not culturally Irish. Not even a little bit.
Either way, we Americans do have a funny way of thinking about our heritage. Except for First Nations folks, every one of us has some historically recent connection with another country. 250 years ago, the USA didn't exist.
We are a nation of immigrants. (Which makes the current anti-immigration sentiments strange, to me.)
My tee shirt yesterday which sums it up well:
We're all Mutts.
I do like St. Patrick's Day for its spiritual implications. There was a historical St. Patrick, and he was also a key figure in the development of a distinctive Celtic spirituality. Thus Celtic prayers are unique, as well. We learn much from their mystery and beauty.
After reading, studying, and praying these prayers for over nearly two decades, I see (at least) three contiguous characteristics.
The Immanence of God with Creation
The Irish took Patrick from his home in England as a 16-year-old, and enslaved him. During his captivity, he was a shepherd, spending most of his time outside. IN the elements. Under the stars. Celtic spirituality sees God as near. God, as revealed through stars, sea, and land plays an important role in Celtic praying - and theology.
One of the beautiful aspects of Celtic prayer is its constant reminder that God the Father is for us. Christ the Son is around us. The Holy Spirit is within us. Christian community is an important practical outworking of the Celtic emphasis of community in the Godhead. Trinity is a foundational aspect of Celtic praying.
Celtic praying (and Celtic spirituality, in general) allows God to be God. There's a comfort with the ambiguity of secular and sacred living in harmony with each other. Celtic praying reflects this.
We are in a historical "time between times." What we learn from an ancient spirituality taught to us by women and men like St. Patrick grows in relevance.
So, while green beer, green rivers, and shamrocks are well and good - for me, the real importance of St. Patrick lies in praying prayers like this (which I will also pray on this Lenten Sunday):
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the 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 hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today
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 in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.
(Attributed to St. Patrick)