This coming Sunday, March 17, is St Patrick’s Day, and, if you have been cruising social media for ‘Things to Do on St Patrick’s Day’ then you know that there is a lot going on this weekend. You can listen to Irish music and eat Irish food and drink Irish beer and watch Irish dancing. You can wear one of those silly green hats, and you can even get a shamrock tattoo. But I’d like to make a suggestion that isn’t going to show up on YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, or Instagram.
You can go to Church.
That’s right. Church. St Patrick is famous for a lot of things, but what was most important to him was connecting people with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For St Patrick, Church was the main place that connection happens, and, since that’s still the case today, if you want to really honor the Apostle to the Irish, the very best way you can do that is by going to Church.
Of course, this Sunday, most Protestant congregations aren’t going to even bring up St Patrick. That’s because Baptists and Presbyterians and the Churches of Christ are opposed to the whole idea of sainthood. St Patrick will most likely be mentioned a few times at Episcopalian and Roman Catholic services, but if you truly want to go all Irish then you need to spend the weekend at an Orthodox parish.
For example, at St John’s in Cedar Park, we will start the festivities this coming Saturday afternoon with a talk about St Patrick—after all, if you’re going to be celebrating a saint, then you need to know something about that saint’s life. The talk will be offered at 4pm, then, at 6pm, our regular weekend worship schedule will begin with a service called Great Vespers. At that service, we will honor the Most Holy Trinity with hymns and incense, but we will also be listening to a number of hymns about St Patrick.
The services continue on Sunday morning. There’s an early service called Orthros at 8am. During that service we will sing a long hymn—it’s called a canon—in honor of the Apostle to the Irish. Then, at 10am, the Divine Liturgy, the main service of the weekend will begin. During the liturgy, there will be beautiful music and several processions with incense and icons as we worship the Most Holy Trinity in the same way St Patrick did back when he was doing missionary work among the Irish.
After we’re done with all the worship, we will continue the festivities with a good meal and some Celtic games. We will have the traditional Caber Toss and do some (plastic) Snake Hurling while enjoying bag pipe music and Irish beer. So, we will actually end up doing what a lot of folks around the area are going to be doing throughout the entire weekend. The difference is that our music and food and beer (and Snake Hurling) will not just be a fun way to celebrate a holiday. Our music and food and beer—and even our Snake Hurling—will be blessed—it will be holy—because it will be an expression of our connection with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That’s the difference between a holiday and a holy day. If you’d like to experience that difference, then join us this coming weekend. The full schedule is on our parish website at www.theforerunner.org. If you’d like to just talk about St Patrick or the Orthodox Church, send me a note or give me a call. I’d love to visit.