I have very deep Irish roots (among every other nationality that I am descendant of), that have there place in this continent when my great, great, great, grandparents landed on the shores of Grosse Île in Quebec during the late 1800’s with the countless thousands that settled in Canada for a new and better life.
That heritage never really had a spiritual context for me especially as an Orthodox Christian, where the bulk of our saints came from the Mediterranean or Slavic world. Of course I knew about St. Patrick an other Celtic and Irish saints, but I never considered that as being more significant than the memory of St. Alexis the man of God (who shares the same feast day with St. Patrick).
This changed for me one day when I had a conversation with my father about his great grandparents and about their generosity and love. I remarked at one point that we, as Orthodox Christians (a priest and deacon to boot) had totally broken from the cultural and spiritual world that was theirs. He looked at me with a quiet smile (always the indication I was about to be schooled) and said, “not at all!”
I think he noticed my perplexed look, and went on to talk about their culture and more profoundly their faith in Christ, was in fact our heritage as Orthodox Christians, as they were the spiritual children and heirs of St. Patrick and those Celtic saints who manifested the Kingdom in Ireland.
Our ancestors great faith in Christ had come through the experiences and relationships of family and friends throughout the ages, and even more from the saints. Those known like St. Patrick, and those known only to God prayed (and pray) for their, and our salvation, and our safe shelter in the Orthodox Church; down to this very day. My father went on to quote the Epistle read on this Sunday of Orthodoxy “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”, (Heb.12:1).
The task he noted was that as Orthodox Christians, and of having Irish decent, we now had to carry on what St. Patrick and those thousands of men and women did. What my great, great, great, grandparents did; “run with endurance the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”.
This is something to consider as we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and the establishment of Icons as being proper to our salvation.
The Incarnation made real the Kingdom in the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, and the lives of the saints who bore witness to that Kingdom, even in poverty, rejection, and death. “God with us” and has been with us throughout the ages as depicted in paint and stone. The seeds of faith planted in Ireland some 1600 years ago by St. Patrick, proclaimed this Triumph of Orthodoxy down to my great, great, great, grandparents, down to my father.
The Kingdom of Heaven, God with us, revealed in Downpatrick Ireland where St. Patrick reposed; the Kingdom of Heaven, God with us, revealed in County Clare Ireland by my forefathers and mothers, the Kingdom of Heaven, revealed in this new country.
With prayer, fasting and charity, as witnessed by St. Patrick, may the Kingdom of Heaven, God with us, be revealed at St. Nicholas in Narol, and past down throughout the world and in every generation.
Holy Bishop Patrick, pray to God For us!