St. Patrick and Nature
The 3rd and 4th stanzas of St. Patrick's Breastplate cover the Old Testament, and then move to present time.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim, In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels, In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs, In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles, In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins, In the deeds of righteous men.
This stanza begins again with the innovocation to be "Awake and Alert!" and revisits Patrick's belief that all of creation was made to serve the Trinity, freely and willingly. Starting with 3 of the orders of angels, Patrick prays for their guidance, steadfastness and protection. He also states that he looks foward to the resurrection in the hope that he will "meet with reward." This is an unusual, and bold, declaration. It is not often that we publically pray for a reward with the reurrection. This statement reminds us that Patrick is not storing up treasure for himself on earth. He is content to wait for it. Considering the lack of comfort his life held while he was active in his ministry in Ireland, we might think he is referring to his anticipation of a hot bath, a comfortable bed and freedom from hunger. It's more likely, though, that the reward he prayed for was the conversion of the Irish people, especially their leaders. He hoped to see his friends again at the resurrection. By naming the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, Patrick places himself squarely in their circle of help. Why not profess himself a son of Abraham? He certainly intended to contribute to the "number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach!" Why not believe that the prophesies foretold meant goodness for him as well as the Israelites? He believed in the promises of God, too!
I arise today through the strength of heaven,
The light of the sun, The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire, The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind, The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth, The firmness of rock.
It is this stanza, though, where Patrick really hits his stride. In his absolute confidence in the Trinity, and the Trinity's vision for creation, Patrick asserts that, not only are the "religious" people OF God, and therefore FOR him - from the angels to the patriarchs to the prophets to any person of good works- but that nature itself is also a servant of the Trinity. Nature is another creation. The religion that Patrick finds in Ireland also sees gods in nature, and worships them. Patrick, on the other hand, looks around at the beautiful wilderness and he sees the attributes of God. He sees the hand of the Creator in what was created. The spark of lightening is God's omnipresence, illuminating as it awes, far reaching and brilliant. The sea shows the great depths of the Lord - unfathomable, unreachable. The wind blows where it will, shaping and bending creation to its will, sometimes in a terrible manner as in hurricanes, sometimes over eons, as in canyons and mountains. Patrick sees the Holy Spirit acting in the same manner, blowing across the world, just as it did in the first days of creation. Yet there is also the stability of the earth, the great firmness of the rock. It is reliable. It is unchangeable. You can build a house, a life, upon it. It will not fail. God is God. I Am Who Am. Existence.
Patrick, living on a rocky outcropping at the edge of the enormous Atlantic Ocean realizes something very basic about God - he is like the nature around him. Wild. Untamed. Nondomestic. And yet, it is this same God who bends low and is born as a small child to poor people. This same God who cares for the sparrows and counts the hairs on our head. It was this God who trained Patrick to pray, who was his spiritual companion, and who led Patrick forth from slavery to freedom. And it was also this same God who asked Patrick to -willingly and freely -return to his place of captivity, to lead others to freedom as well. What was Patrick to do, but Arise! and go and believe wholeheartedly?
Pray the 2 stanzas above slowly and deliberately. Where do you see God's attributes in nature? In others?
Leave a Reply.