Homily – St Patrick (Year A)

Fr Patrick Hederman OSB

Patrick: My dear Sisters and Brothers, we really need to update our sometimes pathetic notions about Saint Patrick. Nowadays, for instance, we could think about Patrick who was trafficked to Ireland as a slave; or Patrick the immigrant, shunned by many; or Patrick who said he was rescued by God like a stone pulled out of the mud. He was a man with a chequered past who relied on God’s kindness and preached it to others.

Spokesperson: Okay, Patrick, we get all that, but tell us about this Trinity thing. But remember that we’re simple people without your fancy education and books and learning and things, and we’re hearing all this for the first time. Try to keep it simple, okay Patrick?

Patrick: Very well, here goes: There are three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but only one God.

1 st S: We’re not pickin’ up what you’re saying here, Patrick, could you make it more simple? Could you give us an illustration?

Patrick: Sure, sure, well let’s say that God is like water: God can appear in three forms: liquid, ice, vapour.

1 st S: Ah come on Patrick, is that not modalism . . .

Patrick: What?

1 st S:Modalism – an ancient heresy taught by such people as Noetus and Sabellius, which holds that God is not three distinct persons but that he reveals himself in three different forms. This heresy was clearly condemned in Canon One of the First Council of Constantinople in 381 AD and anyone confessing it cannot possibly claim to be a Christian. Come on Patrick!

Patrick: Okay, then, the Trinity is like the sun in the sky, where you have a star radiating both light and heat.

1 st S: Come on, Patrick, that’s Arianism!

Patrick: Arianism?

1 st S: Yes, Arianism, a heresy claiming that Christ and the Holy Spirit are created by the Father and are not one in nature with him, like how light and heat are not one with the star but merely creations of the star.

Patrick: Alright so, sorry about that. Well, you’ll have to love this one:
God is like this three leafed shamrock . . .

1 st S: I’m going to stop you right there, Patrick, that’s too corny for words. We need to move beyond the Patrick of the shamrocks and the snakes. And as well as that it’s what we call ‘partialism’ Patrick
Patrick: Partialism?

1 st S: Yes, a heresy which asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct persons in the Godhead but are different parts of God, each forming one third of the divinity.

Patrick: Okay, fine, you smart alec bosthoon. The Trinity is a mystery which cannot be understood by human reason but can only be confessed by faith and which has been best expressed in the words of
the Athanasian Creed which says that we worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. We are compelled by the Christian truth to confess that each distinct person is God and Lord and that the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is one: equal in Glory and co-equal in majesty. Have you got it?

1 st S: Well, why didn’t you just say that in the first place, Patrick ? You’re always beating around the bush – you must stop beating round the bush, Patrick.

Patrick: Fine. That’s enough to go on with for now; so: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

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