St. Patrick and the 'Sun' (Conf. 20)
St Patrick’s College, Dublin
According to St. Patrick in his Confessio, he suffered some form of Satanic attack one night during his wandering in a wilderness following his escape from slavery in Ireland. I will focus on the nature of Patrick’s response to the Satanic attack, the reading and significance of the words which he is alleged to have called out during the course of this attack: “Helia, helia”. My conclusion is that there is no need to charge the young Patrick with any confusion whatsoever between the cult of the sun and any aspect of his Christian faith. He did not call upon sun-god Helios during his moment of crisis, whether in confusion with the prophet Elijah or in confusion with the Christian God. Patrick’s actual words have been lost as one copyist altered them in allusion to the Kyrie, eleison of his contemporary liturgy and another failed to detect the allusion, and so corrected the eleison in reference to Elijah instead. Nevertheless, the context suggests that his original words would have been a simple cry for mercy addressed to Christ himself, just like the eleison itself, probably miserere or something very similar.
St. Patrick , Latin philology
Woods, D., 2007. St. Patrick and the 'Sun' (Conf. 20). Studia Hibernica, 34, pp. 9-16.