Posts Tagged ‘Leprechauns’

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I was looking for a related video to share, and came across this.  Kind of cute…you might like it if you have kids who are learning their numbers.

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The lore of St. Patrick’s Day tells us of a pot-o’-gold at the end of the rainbow, guarded by a wee leprechaun.

In one particular sense, the Irish version of the rainbow myth is closer to the truth than others.  Based on common observance, it observes that the pot-o’-gold is impossible to get to, since one does not get any closer to a rainbow by walking in its direction.

Let it never be said that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.  We might say that this is His way of reminding us that we cannot attain salvation by our own efforts or powers.  It is a gift of grace.

Also, while the rainbow may appear to give us a link to Heaven, the truth remains that Heaven and earth can only be united by the One Who created both.

Christ Crucified by Velazquez

Insofar as Christ is the fulfillment of the Noahide Covenant, the rainbow, like the symbols of the other covenants (for example, the Ark of the Covenant with Moses), leads to the Cross.  So we can say that what we find at the end of the rainbow is not a pot-o’-gold or a leprechaun but, in fact, the Cross.

How does the St. Patty’s Day yarn point to this?  Well, I would venture to suggest two analogies:

1. The true “leprechaun” is Jesus Christ

True, leprechauns are impish, mischievous little creatures, and as such bear no resemblance to the Lord of lords.  But in a sense, Christ is like the leprechauns in that He makes Himself “little.”

St. Paul says it best:

Christ Jesus … though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2: 5-8)

He manifests this littleness above all in becoming a helpless victim on the Cross for our salvation.

2. The true “pot of gold” is the gift of the Holy Spirit

Having reconciled mankind to God, Christ is able to pour out His Spirit upon the world to sanctify humanity and gather His children scattered by Babel into one Body — the Church.

PentecostThe Holy Spirit is, above all, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.  As Jesus is the Father’s Word, the Spirit is the Father’s Breath.  And He is given to us, so that we might have a share in the divine life.

…the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life. (CCC 694)

This is our true treasure.  And I hope you would agree that it puts any “pot-o’-gold” to shame.

So on the day we Irish celebrate the great saint who brought the Gospel to us, we should keep in mind that perhaps those little green men skipping among the clovers have something to teach us after all.

Image of Christ crucified obtained through a Google image search. Other images from Wikipedia.

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St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us.  While there is much to be said about the great saint being commemorated — my Patron Saint, incidentally — I think most people’s attention would be more easily captivated by popular images of leprechauns and their pots-o’-gold under the rainbow.

Given this traditional affiliation, I want to preface my comments on leprechauns with a focus on the rainbow.

Rainbows have captivated mankind’s attention for ages, and so many cultures have attributed various forms of significance to it.


To the Vikings it was the Bifrost Bridge, believed to connect earth to Asgard, the realm of the gods.


According to Greco-Roman mythology, what we call the rainbow was in fact the path made in the sky by Iris, a minor deity whose job it was to relay messages between Heaven and Earth.


The ancient Chinese would have said that the rainbow came into existence as a result of a slit torn into the veil between heaven and earth, which the goddess Nüwa sealed using multi-colored stones.

Across the world’s many cultures throughout the millennia, interpretations of the rainbow included the clothing or paraphernalia of gods, omens, and the very form of a particular god itself.

Descartes_RainbowAnd then of course we have the modern scientific explanation of the rainbow, which is well beyond my expertise or powers of explanation and has something to do with the refractions of light.

This, however, gives us the how of the rainbow.  Before we dismiss the ancients as stupid primitives who understood nothing about the world, we should keep in mind that they were more concerned with whys than with hows.

If we take a look at the various cultures in question, we notice that most of them conceived of the rainbow in terms of some sort of connection between heaven and earth — whether in the form of a connecting apparatus or a revelation (intentional or not) on heaven’s part of itself.

NoahWith all this in mind, let’s take a look at the Biblical conception of the rainbow.

In the Book of Genesis, we read about God’s Covenant with Noah and all of creation after the Great Flood:

God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.  As the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and recall the everlasting covenant that I have established between God and all living beings – all mortal creatures that are on earth” (Genesis 9:12-16).

It is with this understanding of the rainbow in terms of a Covenant in mind that I intend to explore the leprechaun/rainbow symbolism in relation to Christianity.

Images obtained from Wikipedia.

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