Feastday of St. Patrick, Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland

Or: How a Saint I knew nothing about helped bring me to the Church.

When I first visited an Orthodox Church, St. John Chrysostom Antiochian on Putnam Street, I slipped quietly into the back and sat on the right side, very last row.

The walls of the church were covered with icons (shocking, I know) and the one directly next to my right shoulder was a very sweet looking St. Patrick, holding his shamrock and appearing to be the wisest, kindest, person I’d seen. All I knew of St. Patrick was that 1-we never called him “Saint” Patrick and 2-it was just an excuse for Americans of Scot/Irish lineage to get lit and dye the rivers green. Somewhere in my wandering I stumbled across more respectful treatments of him, but I knew not much.

So there he was watching me while I watched the church. And every Sunday for months, when I slipped in the back, he was like a friend in the pew. I knew about the prayers to the saints in an intellectual way as my journey continued, but I felt, in a very real way, this ancient soul was watching over me, praying for me and loving me from beyond the veil.

As the time of my entrance to the Church grew closer and these intellectual understandings started to move deeper to my heart, I went with our women’s group to a monastery for a Lenten retreat. The nuns put me in a little room with an icon over each twin bed. Guess who was over mine…St. Patrick. Same icon even, same beautiful look on his face…now watching over me while I slept. I left that monastery with a copy of that icon from the gift shop (depicted below).

For a few personal reasons, I did not choose St. Patrick as my patron. But in a way he is/was. I believe, I know, that he saw me that day in the church. I know that when I finally mustered up enough courage to try it and mumbled a prayer to him, asking for his intercession, he did it. I know he helped bring me here.

So tonight, I will lift a glass of Smithwick’s or maybe a pour of Jameson’s and I will thank St. Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland and this girl. Thanks, old friend.

Oh, Holy St. Patrick, equal to the Apostles, we ask you to intercede before Christ our God for the enlightenment of this place, filled with your people now for many years. Ask Him in His great love to continue to work in our hearts to draw us deeper into the fullness of His truth and the glorious life in His kingdom.

Apolytikion:

O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.


Kontakion:

The Master revealed thee as a skillful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who honour thy memory.

From The Lorica of St. Patrick:

I arise today/Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity/Through belief in the threeness/Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.

I arise today/Through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,/Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension/Through the strength of his decent for the Judgment of doom.

I arise today/Through the strength of the love of Cherubim
In obedience to the Angels,/In the service of the Archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,/In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,/In preaching of Apostles,/In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of Holy Virgins,/In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today/Through the strength of heaven:/Light of sun
Brilliance of moon/Splendor of fire/Speed of lightning/Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea/Stability of earth/Firmness of 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 host to secure me/against snares of devils/against temptations of vices/against inclinations of nature/against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,/alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me and these evils/
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,/Against incantations of false prophets,/Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,/Against craft of idolatry,/Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,/Against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today/against poison, against burning,/against drowning, against wounding,/so that there may come abundance of reward.
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 where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today/Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Thrones,/Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.

Salvation is of the Lord./Salvation is of the Lord./Salvation is of Christ/May thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.



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Of Lent and porn stars

On how I am learning to give in and love the sinners (of whom I am first)

Alternate title: How Charlie Sheen owes me an apology but that’s OK because I owe him one too.

Great Lent starts with Forgiveness Sunday, a slate-cleaning opportunity to get things right with your brothers and sisters within the Church and without.

We never sin alone.

After Divine Liturgy, some friends stopped me in the hall and asked me how I do what it is that I do, how I write what I write and how I sit, day in and day out as some kind of sin-eater, listening and chronicling the misery of others. I grinned and answered that I have no idea, but I know that if I wasn’t Orthodox I couldn’t do it. I said that sometimes I feel like the criminals owe me an apology because as I sit there listening to them justify, obfuscate and wiggle out of responsibility it causes me to become angry and to despair.

Sunday night, prior to the Rite of Forgiveness — in which your girl bows to all in the Church individually and apologizes for being such a raging jackass throughout the year — Fr. Andrew (I love priests. They’re so smart) reminded us that we don’t sin alone. Every sin we commit contributes to the chaos in the universe. So when I get absolutely ridiculously irritated at the office and then become all cranky-pants with some random person I encounter, I just spread it around like some kind of Cat-In-The-Hat spot that doesn’t ever go away.

Now on to the application:

On Tuesday, Charlie Sheen’s “goddess” appeared in one of my courthouses to answer to a drunk driving charge she picked up while back visiting her home town. She brought with her TMZ, Radar online and other such detritus from LA.

I got cranky the week prior to her visit as watched the dirty old men in my office drool over her anticipated presence in our fair city. My eyes hurt from rolling them as the hour drew near. I forced myself to choke down a Dateline episode focused on Sheen so I could make note of her condition, her arrangements and “get up to speed” on such an important news event.  And after Sunday evening, I thought about how this is all so much chaos in the cosmos – how her enslavement to whatever issues she has leads her to thinking prostitution is a really good way to make a living (let’s be honest, that’s what pornography is), how Sheen’s addictions drew her in, how her profession drew the men in my office in, how her (alleged) over-consumption of alcohol while visiting her friend a local strip joint drew the Allen County criminal justice system into it, drew me into it and then drew everyone else into it who had to listen to me whine about it for the past week and counting.

It’s just a gorgeous daisy chain of sin, isn’t it?

The only thing I could think to do was seek the intercessions of St. Mary of Egypt on her behalf (she’s much more qualified in this particular area than I am) and work really hard to treat her like the thing she is: a child of God, beloved of Him before the foundation of the world, a person with the Divine spark in her that may one day draw her to the full truth of His love for her.

I tried really hard. I did. I swear. And to her, and to Charlie, and to all in this web of cosmic chaos: Please forgive me and may God forgive us all.

Gospodi pomiluj.