The real Saint Patrick

10628324_10205180827775592_1577891057049454180_n

 

11070445_10205180842135951_4877071463788668620_n

Last March I had the unique privilege of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland. This “bucket list” trip was special and memorable for many reasons. I was able to spend time following the Saint Patrick trail and learn more about the man and missionary called Patrick. I discovered much information and inspiration at the new Saint Patrick Center, in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, at the only museum in the world dedicated to the history and story of Saint Patrick: saintpatrickcentre.com.

slider03-SPCentre1

During my travels I visited a number of historic sites including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, where it is said Patrick baptized converts in a well in A.D. 450, and also Saul Church, Downpatrick, where Saint Patrick built the first Christian Church in Ireland in A.D. 432.

This post has become somewhat of an annual tradition for me as I write about the story behind the celebration . . . the man called Patrick.

Kidnapped into slavery at age 16 and taken from his home in England to the land of savages in Ireland, Patrick had visions from God that gave him strength and led to his escape. So inspired and moved by God, once home in England he felt compelled to return as a missionary to preach the gospel in a land that had never heard the message of Christ before. The story continues and his writings are full of profound insights, theology, prayers, and confessions that challenge and inspire me deeply. I have included a portion of a hymn written by, or least attributed to, Patrick from around 430 A.D.

st-patrick

It should be noted that Patrick was not recognized as a “saint” until decades later, did not drive snakes out since there were none in Ireland at the time, did not use the three-leaf clover to describe the Trinity, and was basically kicked out of the priesthood for failure to submit to authority. He was, however, a great contextual theologian and missionary who reached an entire people for the Kingdom of God!

We have much to learn and celebrate from the rich and diverse history of our faith.           The traditions of past and present, while different from our own, provide a wonderful opportunity for our faith to increase. This national “holiday” of sorts, Saint Patrick’s Day, has given me an opportunity to learn to appreciate what God has been doing through servants like Patrick through- out the centuries. Of course, we can also expand our food and spirits horizons at our local Irish pub!

While last year I was in Dublin for the festivities, I will be in NYC, which may even have more revelers than the famed Irish city itself.  As I join in the cultural festivities today and in the years to come, I will always be reminded of my time in Patrick’s land.

13083_10205180835015773_8026384501876141357_n

So, as you listen to U2, thee Cranberries or DropKick Murphies (depending on your style) and raise a pint of Guinness, thank God for examples like Patrick, and may we all follow the example of a life of obedience, sacrifice, servant-hood, faith, prayer, and mission.

 

Prayer of Saint Patrick

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

11048609_10205180891577187_3259677538958112585_n
Advertisements

Following the trail of Patrick

On March 17 I had the unique privilege of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland. This “bucket list” trip was special and memorable for many reasons. I was always able to spend time in Northern Ireland following the Saint Patrick trail and learn more about the the man and missionary called Patrick. Much information and inspiring was discovered at the brand new Saint Patrick Center, the only museum in the world dedicated to the history and story of Saint Patrick. http://www.saintpatrickcentre.com/

IMG_4496

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my travels I visited a number of historic sites included Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where it is said Patrick baptized converts in a well in AD 450. IMG_4372

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saul Church, the site where Saint Patrick built the first Christian Church in Ireland in 432 AD.

IMG_4512

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4507

also his burial site in Downpatrick.

IMG_4504

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a remarkable and memorable experience which I highly recommend if you have the opportunity to visit the island of the Irish.

My time and travels in Ireland provided me an opportunity and invitation to expand the horizons of the Christian faith as well as sounds, sights and spirits of this great culture. During my remaining few months living in Europe, I do hope to experience a few other new countries and cultures, as so much can be learned that help broaden and expand our minds, hearts and lives.

I leave you with these words from Patrick that serve well for us all as we enter into the Eastertide season celebrating Christ’s resurrection and presence with us!

 

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

 

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

 

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

 

Christ to comfort and restore me,

 

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

IMG_4493

IMG_4408

Being in the moment…a Lenten reflection

As I continue my Lenten journey, I am encouraged to reflect on the idea of what stands in our way in experiencing God anew this season. For some, Lent simply becomes a time to give up a favorite snack or drink, somehow confirming personal endurance or strength. Yet, Lent is to remind us that we cannot do it on our own power, but need to rely daily on God. Perhaps it is not chocolate or wine (both very popular here in France and indeed difficult to go without!) that we need to think seriously about. Perhaps busyness, worry, stress, or even our personal agenda is distracting us from experiencing freedom and new life this spring.

capture_the_moment-42392

I remember a time one month ago when I was with my boys, Jack and Blake. It was one of those magical moments when they were laughing and playing and simply enjoying life. Rather than being captivated by this moment, I wanted to capture it and so naturally I took out my cell phone and attempted to take pictures and videos. Of course, my phone was not very “smart” then and did not work. Meanwhile, I realized I was missing the moment with my boys: so preoccupied with technology and maintaining a memory, that I was unable to create a memory.

Sometime, I confess, I am too busy taken up with life to step back and record such moments. Even if I am physically present, my mind is full of chores, duties, worries, or other preoccupations. I feel this impacts my time with my boys; and I fear this also has a profound impact on our relationship with God. Could it be that God in fact delights in our presence…our full and attentive presence?

But often we get too easily distracted by life’s worries. Even good things such as food, drink, and technology can become hindrances to entering fully and freely into God’s presence. This Lent, let us each reflect on what we can say “no” to and leave behind, so that we may be open to receiving the joy of God’s company.

One final springtime summary.

As I continue my reflections on what I will miss most here in Paris, I hear the birds chirping outside my office. Growing up in the northeastern United States, I remember that spring rarely showed her face until late April or May, whereas here in Paris, the month of March manifests miraculous new beginnings as the weariness of winter warms away. I have always appreciated and anticipated the early arrival of spring this month. The green grass, bulbs of flowers beginning to blossom, and the once barren trees beckoning forth their leaves. This serves as a hopeful reminder that during Lent, the deaths we may experience during winter, serve as fertile soil for new life to burst forth. May we let go and behold the beauty of it all!

6a00d83451b0bd69e20167655d150d970b

 

Real Freedom

As an American, I am very proud of my nation’s history and the independence we celebrate each year on July 4th.  Living now in France, I have also been caught up in patriotic parades on July 14.  ”Bastille Day”, as known among English speakers, is the the French National Day, commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789,as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. Celebrations are held throughout France and I just recently enjoyed a wonderful parade and fireworks display this week.

I recognize and respect the many sacrifices and lives lost in order to protect these national and individual liberties.  Our two countries share much in common and just recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings and the eventual WWII victory.

As I reflect this month on the blessings of freedom, I also acknowledge the harsh truth that my situation is not the reality of so many in our world.  Millions of people live in oppressive situations, held captive by political or religious dictatorships.  Many nations are currently scorched by civil war and longing for safety.

While I watched colorful fireworks and heard marching bands, hundreds of thousands of people were scattered seeking shelter from air raids of missiles and blocking their hears from bust of bombs and screening sirens.

In addition to these “news worthy” stories, we know that millions of people from every nationality suffer under the oppression of hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, poverty, and addiction. These chains in many ways are just as deadly but often are swept under the rug of ignorance.

I will be honest, it is easier for me to enjoy parades eating cotton candy if I do not have to think about starving children in Africa, overworked immigrants in Asia, or orphaned boys and girls in Latin America.

Considering these contrasting realities, I am struck by a powerful quote from the great international leader and humanitarian Nelson Mandela.

He said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

How are we living in a way that not only respect, but also enhances the freedom of others?  How are we spending our time, talents, and treasures in ways that help release people and communities from the chains of oppression?  Are they actually ways in which we spend our money that contribute to these global problems rather than work towards eliminating them?

Personally, I know I have difficult choices and decisions ahead.  We can all do our part and believe that the culmination of many people doing their part can make a big difference.  Mother Theresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

Let’s think this summer about how we can use our lives to help others break the chains holding them back and be set free for the life God intends for them.

 

Magi Musings…an Epiphany epilogue

(the Epiphany mural above was photographed by yours truly at the Saint-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris)

I must confess that before I moved to Paris to work at The American Church, I did not know what Epiphany was, so if you find yourself wondering the same question…no worries!

In the liturgical worship of the Christian calendar, Epiphany is celebrated on January 5 this year to mark the arrival of the wise men or “magi” to worship the infant Christ.  Of course we do not know how many of them came to visit Jesus, but we do know that at least three signficant and symbolic gifts were presented.  We also do not know when precisely they arrived, but most scholars maintain it was probably a few months (or even up to two years) after the birth of Christ.  Either way, it is important to celebrate their arrival of these first Gentiles to worship the Savior of the nations.

Epiphany also concludes the 12 Days of Christmas, which contrary to some, is the 12 days of giving gifts after Christmas, not before. Epiphany is celebrated among liturgical denominations and Orthodox Christianity. In fact, a number of students and young adults from ACP who are from places like Russia, Romania and Greece, wait until January to give and receive their Christmas gifts.  Epiphany also marks the end of Christmastide and when the decorations are stored and festivities conclude, thus ushering in a new season of preparation for Lent.

The actual word Epiphany can be translated “manifestation”, “striking appearance” or “vision of God”, and as mentioned  traditionally falls on January 6. It is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a  human being in the person of Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visitation of the magi to the baby Jesus, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Eastern Christians commemorate the baptisms in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Many of the Eastern Churches follow a different calendar and so may observe this feast on January 19.

I rather enjoyed rethinking my normal Christmas traditions and assumptions and appreciate the continuation of the season and spirit into January. I was always one who wanted to keep up decorations at least through New Year’s day, but now I actually have a theological reason to do so!

Concerning the magi, we do not know much about their story (background, beliefs, or future faith journey), but we know that they were guided and lead by light.  They responded in faith with what they had.  a vision. a desire. a star.  hope

Many of us are on a similar journey.  We do not know where it will end up but we hope to encounter the Christ along the way.

As I reflect back upon the story, part of the beauty  for me is the journey of the magi.  People in biblical times were accustomed to rather long and tiresome journeys.  Hoping on a plane and traveling from Asia Minor to Bethlehem in 2 hours was not an option.

I  wonder what they were thinking during the day, week, and months of their pilgrimage.  These individuals were scholars, astrologers, and cosmologists.  They were intelligent, observant, and rational people I assume.  They were men of science…and faith it appears and God revealed himself to them in means they could understand and interpret.

A reasonable conclude from this story is that God worked, and works, in mysterious ways and we should not limited God to work only within traditional “religious” or even “Christian” parameters.

Many questions come to mind looking back upon this fascinating story

What the magi were hoping to find?

How much of God’s story did they know or understand?

Did they fully grasped what kind of Savior-King this would be?

Unlike some of our Christmas gifts, which I am sure were returned on “Boxing Day”, how much thought actually went into their gifts.

Did they really know that this baby would be a King unlike any other?  Did they ever come to understand or know that his baby ould serve as God’s High Priest eternally, and would die on behalf of the human race.

Did they know this on their journey towards Nazareth?

Did they leave their visit with this knowledge?

I suppose we cannot know.  But we do know that God spoke to them in amazingly clear and directive ways.

Is God speaking to you?

Might this new year be one of many “epiphanies”?

Are we prepared to hear the voice of God is strange and unusual ways?

May we be open and ready to discover God, not only through these miraculous manifestations but also  in the commonplace; arts, conversations, culture, and sciences.

It has become clear to me that God desires to be discovered in all, and through all things.  He is a self-revealing God, and we should not box God in by our own expectations and limitations.  God will come to us.  The question is…we will let him on his own terms?

Dispersing the gloomy clouds of night, Putting dark shadows to flight, The Dayspring has come to cheer us. The Lord has come to be near us. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!

Top Ten Christmas Comedies

Please comment to add your suggestions to this list!

1.  Elf

MV5BNjY1NjQ3NDY5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODAyMTc3._V1._SX140_CR0,0,140,209_

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

MV5BMTI1OTExNTU4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzIwMzQyMQ@@._V1._SY209_CR4,0,140,209_

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. A Christmas Story

MV5BMTI1NzY1NjkyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjYxNjE0MQ@@._V1._SX140_CR0,0,140,209_

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Home Alone

MV5BMTUzMzg4MTg2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDM4OTk4._V1._SY209_CR4,0,140,209_

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Four Christmases

MV5BMTQ2MjA0NDAwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU4MTM5MQ@@._V1_SX214_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Deck the Halls

MV5BMTIzNjA4OTM0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDgwODkzMQ@@._V1._SY209_CR0,0,140,209_

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Scrooged

MV5BMjA5NzE4NTE4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTI1NDIyMQ@@._V1._SY209_CR3,0,140,209_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Christmas with the Kranks

MV5BMTUxNDA4OTU4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzQxODYyMQ@@._V1_SX214_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Fred Claus

MV5BMTY0NDEwNzc0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjgxNzUzMw@@._V1._SY209_CR0,0,140,209_

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. The Santa Clause

MV5BNDY4MjgyNTk3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTg1NTUxMQ@@._V1._SY209_CR4,0,140,209_

Virgin Mother and Second Adam

Dec. 6, Bruce Herman, Magnificat Miriam Virgin Mother_1_advent_image

Miriam: Virgin Mother and Second Adam Triptychs
Bruce Herman
Oil on wooden panel with silver and gold leaf
Permanent installation–Monastery of San Paolo, Orvieto, Italy

About the Art 
Bruce Herman’s paintings—in the traditional form of two large altarpieces—constitute a sustained reflection on the life of the Virgin Mary from the time of her “Yes” to God at the Annunciation to the fulfillment of this “sword that will pierce your soul” at her Son’s Crucifixion. Critic Rachel Smith states, ”The two triptychs represent the dual paths of discipleship that Mary exemplifies: the via activa, where Mary is active participant called to be a key instrument in God’s most critical work and the via contemplative, where Mary is a reflective witness pondering the implications of God’s audacious plan.” The theme of incarnation and Herman’s interplay between the traditional biblical narrative of scripture juxtaposed with a modern abstract sensibility make these works unique.

Bruce Herman was an art professor at Gordon College when I attended, and I was personally blessed by many of his pieces on display in the campus art galleries and including in worship events.

The comments below (as well as the image) was taken from The Advent Project of Biola University Center for Christianity Culture & the Arts

http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/

As I view Bruce Herman’s Virgin Mother and The Second Adam I am captured by two images – vessels and bearing. Mary was the chosen vessel to bring the Son of God into the world, yet she was a willing vessel – one who said “yes” to God. She was the chosen vessel, yet she chose to be the vessel. She was willing to bear Him in the pain, fear, and loneliness of childbirth, a foreshadowing of His bearing our sin on the cross. In His example, we are called to bear the cross and the burdens of others. I am struck by the placement of Mary’s arms and hands in these paintings. In one image she has her hand on her belly indicating her pregnancy and expectancy for birth. In another she is contemplating two vessels, and in yet another she is grasping her throat perhaps in a way to contain her sadness at seeing her son on the cross.