Notes from Exile
IRELAND—St. Patrick's Day is big in the
It's much the same here in
There a lot of myths about Patrick, and some even think that he is a "myth" himself. But he was a real person, one who even left us an autobiography from which we learn that he was a Celt of "British" race similar to today's Welsh, who lived in Roman Britain long before the Anglo-Saxons came to what is now
But because that Empire was beginning to collapse in
Later he escaped and made his way to
His writings, while very brief, are a precious window into
"I hold it certain, that I shall have gained my soul along with my body, because without doubt, we shall rise on that day in the glory of the Sun; that is to say, in the glory of Jesus Christ, because it is from Him and through Him and in Him that we are to reign. For the Sun, which we see (with our bodily eyes) rises daily at God's command for our sake, but it will never reign, nor will its splendor abide. And all who adore it will come to punishment as unhappy men. (But) We on the other hand (are people) who believe in the True Sun and adore Him, Christ, Who will never perish."
But how did Patrick around A.D. 490 know that the Sun was not an all-powerful (and sometimes malevolent) "god," but that it is rather a "created thing"; that is, in our modern terminology, a "material thing" long before that could be proved by science?
He was able to do so by a combination of faith and logic. He was really reiterating the same combination of faith and logic which sustained the Jews in their captivity at
For it was at that time that people whom scholars call "the priests" composed the first chapter of Genesis (almost certainly as a means to hold their people to their faith against the onslaught of Babylon's mythological paganism) in which it is stated that it was indeed Israel's God who, "In the beginning created the heavens and the Earth, and also that he "made two great lights" to govern the day and the night."
Today there are those who create false dichotomies between scientific understandings of the world (most notably that of "evolution") and "religious truth." But there are also those who are able to keep these two "ways of knowing" in their proper tension, one with the other, and who also understand that the "religious truth" which was first learned by the Jews in their travails and later reiterated by such people as Patrick (who must have meditated long on these in his own time of enslavement) which banished the superstitious myths of paganism and laid the groundwork for the forms of scientific reasoning which have made Western Civilization great.
So, next time St. Patrick's Day rolls around, perhaps it would be well amid all of the green hats and green beer (and green gills the following morning!) to remember the real message of St. Patrick and that of the ancient Jewish "priests" at
A Westwood native, David Irby is a writer and social justice activist, who is now based in Dingle, in beautiful
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