In March we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Did you know that Patrick was a real person? According to History.com, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17, the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. Saint Patrick, who lived during the fifth century, is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped, but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. In the centuries following Patrick’s death (believed to have been on March 17, 461), the stories surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture.
One of the best-known teachings of St. Patrick is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the native Irish clover, the shamrock. The way he explained God as three-in-one is by showing that the shamrock is really just one leaf with three parts. In the same way, the Bible shows God as one entity, yet three persons. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, but the concept of the Trinity is taught there. One of the clearest places where we see the Trinity in the Bible is in Matthew 28:19, when Jesus says, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 1:1 the Father is spoken of as God. In John 20:28 Jesus is spoken of as God. And in Acts 5:3-4 the Holy Spirit is spoken of as God. All three persons of the Godhead are mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 where we read, But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. The idea that God is one but three persons comes out at the very beginning of the Bible when Genesis 1:26-27 states: Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
It is difficult to understand this mystery of how God is one entity, yet three persons. But that is what Scripture teaches, and so Christians accept it and believe it. Some will misunderstand this teaching and insist that Christians believe in more than one God: 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. The Bible does not teach this, and Christians do not believe in three Gods. The proper way of understanding the Trinity is to see it like this: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. One of the biggest reasons for accepting this Biblical truth about God is that it explains how the crucifixion of Jesus can save us. At the very moment Jesus takes on the sins of the entire world, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As Jesus takes on our sin, his communion with the heavenly Father is broken temporarily. God the Father could not mix with sin. God the Son did, and it results in our forgiveness in a way that only God can forgive sin, wiping it totally out of our life when we are united with him in faith and baptism.
St. Patrick’s Day reminds us that when we were lost in sin, our God acted in every Person of his being to save us. The Father gave the Son, the Son offered himself on the Cross, and the Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus. We were so lost that it took every member of the Godhead to save us.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!