St. Patrick and Purim
Hi everyone. Today is St. Patrick's Day and many are gearing up for fun festivities. Today always reminds me of a bucket list item, in having a green beer on St. Patricks Day. Maybe this will be the year?
On another note, in reading a post a friend of mine wrote about the story of St. Patrick, it got my head buzzing. With St. Patrick's Day, my mind also connecting with the Jewish holiday called Purim.
I was amazed about Patrick being a young man who wasn't a Christian, kidnapped as a young man, learning to pray and trust God while working as a shepherd (still being under captivity), hearing a voice telling him to flee to a ship 200 miles away, and then finding the ship and his freedom. If that wasn't enough to have had in life he then studied to become a priest. Then after a short while, he received a vision where voices were crying out him to go back to Ireland, to a certain place and walk among them. He then became a Christian missionary to Ireland and went back to where he was once a captive.
Many legends surround this time as to what Patrick did exactly. One stands out in that a High King of Tara forbade lighting of fires, leading up to a festival for a goddess named Ostara. The king had decreed that no fires should be lit in the land until the great bonfire was lit for the festival on the Hill of Tara. Well, on the eve of this festival, Patrick and his group went up a hill near to the Hill of Tara, called the Hill of Slane, and they lit their own bonfire. The king saw this and sent soldiers to arrest whoever lit the fire and to put the fire out. Patrick was dressed in priestly garments, he stood with his group. As the king's soldiers arrived, Patrick and his company were chanting a poem or hymn...
"I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Shield to shelter me,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
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,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the UnityThe Creator of the Universe."
(I have slightly modified it...to shorten it for space. Please forgive me)
As Patrick and his band were speaking this, they were able to get away without being arrested. It is said they walked through the soldiers as deer. The soldiers also were unable to extinguish the bonfire Patrick and crew had lit. Among the soldiers were druids, who were sort of magicians/priests persons of the day. I don't know the full story, but I'm imagining them arriving to Patrick's hill, finding Patrick and his companions in religious garments while singing a hymn about a God who is protecting them, that this was highly unexpected. Then when the fire couldn't be put out, I imagine they were thinking with at least a bit of fear, "who are these people?"
In the following time, many in the area and around Ireland were then converted to faith in Jesus Christ. In many respects this was a clash of kings; a king of this world and the kingdom of God.
And with that I want to talk about Purim.
What does Purim have to do with St. Patricks Day? There's a principle in each story that I would like to highlight.
A few days ago was the Jewish holiday of Purim. If you've never heard of Purim, welcome! In short, it remembers an event during the Jewish exile in Persia. You can read about it in the Bible, in the book of Esther.
In summary, there is a man named Haman (boo!) who is second in command to the king of Persia. Call him Darth Vader to the Emperor.
The king of Persia had decreed that his subjects bow down and pay homage to Haman (boo!). So one day while Haman (boo!) was passing through the city gates, all bowed and paid homage to him. However, one man named Mordecai did not bow and pay homage to him. Haman (hiss!) saw this Mordecai (already a person of favor with the king for uncovering a plot to kill the king) and was enraged. He found out that Mordecai was a Jew and wanted to get even somehow. He went to the king and explained how there's a certain people in the kingdom who have separate laws than the rest of the Persians and defy the king's orders. Haman (hiss!) then asked for permission to destroy these people. Permission was granted and so plans and decrees were made to destroy the Jews on a specific day.
A great fear is swept over the Jewish population.Mordecai gets to Queen Esther (cousin to Mordecai...a Jewish woman) and convinces her to try and persuade the king of Persia to somehow reverse the decree. This would be bold of Esther because she could be seen as trying to contradict the king, and make him look bad.
Haman (hiss!) again sees Mordecai not bowing to him as he passed through the city gates. Haman (boo!) then has a gallows built, to have Mordecai hanged on it. Next he just needs the king's permission to do so. Over the course of a few days, Queen Esther talks with the king by having a dinner in his honor, along with inviting Haman (boo!). Haman (hiss!) believes he's in line for a promotion. While this is going on, the king is reminded that he never honored Mordecai. He asks Haman (boo) for advice on how to honor a man (he didn't name Mordecai), and so Haman (boo!), thinking he was the man to be honored, thinks of awesome ways to be honored.
Queen Esther then comes in and tells of the plot and decree to kill all Jews, including Mordecai. The king then asks who plotted this, and Haman (hiss!) is named. The king is enraged and has Haman (hiss!) hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. The king removed the decree to kill all the Jews and that was that. Great celebration occurred among the Jews, and they mark the day as Purim.
Standing Up For Others
So how do St. Patrick's Day and Purim connect? Well for starters there's a lot of drinking. But beyond that, in seeing their stories, I'm awestruck at the power of defying the powers that be and in standing up for others. I'm not saying we should be active in just trying to usurp authority and governments.
In this modern era, Patrick might be seen as a harasser of another culture and that might be a fair statement. I don’t fully know who the Celts and druids were, but I look at Jesus of the Gospels. He announced the Kingdom of God, which was unlike any other kingdom. The Kingdom of God is lived and taught through mercy, love of neighbor, serving each other out of desiring the best for others. This is all in connection with service to and with the King. The King is for his people, not just the other way around. This King has come to right the world. This world where there is suffering, disease, death, greed, Jesus came and gave His life to save and establish His Kingdom. His prayer that heaven would come to earth, it was evidenced in how he lived and did for others. His resurrection showed His victory.
Conviction Isn’t Just a Personal Matter
Patrick didn’t just live his faith in private or where it was safe. He went out to those who had captured and hurt him. But he didn’t return with swords and armies, but with the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus forgives sins and brings life. Patrick saw his sins forgiven by King Jesus, and in like manner, he returned to offer this to others.
Mordecai, he wouldn’t bow and pay homage to Haman. To do so would violate a command not to worship anything (or anyone) but God. Like the druids of Patrick’s day who worshipped nature, Mordecai didn’t pay homage to a man. Then when the decree to kill the Jews was made, he didn’t run away and hide in some far off land. He stayed and found a way to help his entire people by spoke up.
So I think to our day, we live in somewhat confusing times. We live in polarizing times of liberals versus conservatives, or Americans versus terrorists, Democracy or capitalism versus socialism, Christians versus Muslims, whites against Jews, and many other divides. We are left with questions of which side we are on, who we are for, and who we are seen with. To take a side means taking a position against.
Muslims serving at an outreach in Los Angeles
Could we like Patrick and Mordecai stand in some kind of opposition to voices who say were are either one or the other? Can we stand up to those in the name of Jesus and bless? Patrick stood up to his captors, against a king, to proclaim the Gospel of forgiveness, of peace, of the Kingdom to come. Mordecai, didn’t deny his God and just go with the flow. Perhaps some may say he caused trouble for his people by standing, but did his conviction hold him up? He believed his God was to the One honored, and did so with action. He spoke up to save the life of a non-Jewish king, but still held to give homage to his God. How does the conviction that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life get played out in how we treat our neighbors, no matter which end of the spectrum they may be? The Kingdom of God and of His Christ isn’t just for books and quiet time, but for how we live now. The King of kings crosses all barriers and divides we build.
As we clink glasses of green beer and join for fried fish, let us ask who and what we are for? Let us use our voice, our hearts, our hands, our smiles, our tears, and our feet to strive for life, blessing, and goodness for others...even though it may hurt. I believe God dwells there.