Ireland's been good. Ireland's been more than good. Ireland's been the kind of good that makes you eager to get up at ungodly hours of the morning and walk for miles in shoes that give you blisters upon blisters.
This morning we set off for a guided tour of Dublin City, with some super special stops along the way. I can't elaborate on every sight and stop, but I'll highlight. After driving through the streets filled with massive Georgian-style houses in old Dublin, we headed to the world renowned St. Patrick's Cathedral. If you didn't already know, Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland. And if that doesn't mean much to you, the gist of the whole ordeal is that he converted the pagans of Ireland back in the fourth century, and was basically the founder of Christianity in Ireland.
His cathedral, consequently, was breathtaking. The massive stained glass windows on every wall depicting the story of Christ and the story of St. Patrick were intricate and masterfully crafted. The sculptures and structures and the architecture of the entire building was stunning. We stood on the grave of the famous satirical writer, Jonathon Swift, not to mention we beheld a bronze casting of his skull. (Somehow it's not as creepy while touring Europe.) We found the monuments to saints and kings and queens, writers and poets, priests and bishops. The stories and the symbols and the reasons for every structural embellishment were astounding. It was not hard to imagine why the cathedral took seven years to build... and then again, even that amount of time seems fast for such an edifice.
Trinity College was our next stop. The home of the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a beautiful volume of complexly illustrated pages and completely handwritten, and comprises the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The pages are made of calfskin, the inks are still vibrant... oh yeah- and the book is also 1200 years old. To walk through the exhibits preceding the ancient book, itself, and reading up on how it was made and the incredible thought and work that the authors put into it, I was convicted of what first-world Christianity has become, today. Reading up on the lives of the Irish monks, I was speechless. They would shave their heads, which was the sign of a slave. They literally dedicated their lives to be slaves to Christ. The creed that was written up on the wall entailed all the duties of a monk: To forsake friends and family and be willing to part with them until death, to never find fault in meals, to never marry, and to be the living exemplification of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and every other Godly virtue. They had to be willing to answer the call of prayer and any time of the day or night. Many monks started out at the age of 15, and sacrificed the years of their lives to better worship God. What a lesson. Compared to what they were willing to give up, my sacrifices look like nothing. Compared to the severe fasts they endured, my gifts to God look pitiful.
But then I think of the woman with the two pennies. She gave hardly anything. But because it was her everything, it was worth so much more than the portions of wealth that were being dropped into the bucket. Of the time I dedicate to God, is it truly a sacrifice? Am I giving my two pennies, or am I giving buckets of money that have no value, because they're easy to give? After going to church all my life every Sunday, is going to church a sacrifice? Or is it the late nights when I turn to my Bible even in total exhaustion and force myself to read His Word that's the true sacrifice?
The rest of our day was devoted to exploring Dublin for ourselves. We were given five hours to split into smaller groups and roam wherever we pleased. It's such a cool thing to be able to say that I can now find my way around central Dublin with relative ease! The 400 ft spire in the centre of the city helps, but I'd rather say that I've walked up and down the streets enough time to know my way around. It was a grand time.
We visited the wool shops, the old bookshops, the museums, the galleries, the historical monuments, the bridges, and of course, the cafes. And after one more incredible meal in one more jolly pub, our time in Ireland is drawing to a close.
This country is marvelous. Beautiful in every way. This place has a natural charm about it that is unmistakable. For this country rich in culture, heritage, history, and character, I am thankful. To the lovely people along the way that put up with this rambunctious group of Canadians, I thank you. From Cork to Killarney to Sneem to Cashel to Dublin, it's been a truly forgettable adventure.
Ireland, you've been swell. Til we meet again!