We learned this from Eustasius, who was present with the others, under the command of the servant of God. He said that no one of them remembered ever having seen birds of such a kind before; and the food was of so pleasant savor that it surpassed royal viands. O, wonderful gift of divine mercy! When earthly food was wanting to the servants of Christ, celestial was furnished…
- Jonas, Life of St. Columban
If you thirst, drink the Fountain of life; if you hunger, eat the Bread of life. Blessed are they who hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink. For that is lovely to excess which is ever eaten and drunk, and ever hungered and thirsted after, ever tasted and ever desired…
- Columbanus, Sermon XIII
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
- Matthew 6.31-34
Jonas has just reported an incident that occurred outside Bregenz, as Columbanus and his company continued their journey toward Italy. They had been fasting for three days and were becoming hungry and weak. “But although they were without food, they were bold and unterrified in their faith,” Jonas explained.
They trusted the Lord and looked to Him to provide for their needs. They could not carry enough food for their journey, so they depended through prayer on the Lord. It pleased the Lord at times for them to go without food for several days. But when they needed to eat, because they were becoming weak and unable to do their work, God provided for their needs, and sometimes in ways that can only be described as miraculous.
In this instance, the company came upon great flocks of birds, feeding in a field. Jonas likens this incident to the provision of quails for Israel. The birds did not try to flee as the monks gathered them, and the birds continued in the field for three days. After that, a local priest, prompted by the Lord, brought a wagonload of grain for the monks, whereupon the birds departed, as if at God’s command.
Jonas was aware that this and certain other aspects of his account of the life of Columbanus may be hard to believe. So he mentions that he learned of this from one who had been present at the time, Eustasius, a member of Columbanus’ company. Jonas was writing shortly after the death of Columbanus, and he sought out reliable sources for his account. He had no reason to doubt his sources, and thus he did not hesitate to report his account just as he had learned it.
Writings like this – called hagiography, or lives of the saints – often include stories of miracles, signs, and wonders which we might be inclined to doubt. Hagiographers like Jonas understood this, and so they frequently referred to their sources. Just because we don’t experience such remarkable divine interventions does not mean they did not happen in the past, or don’t happen elsewhere in our day. Who are we to tell God what He can or can’t do?
Jonas’ response to this report was not to scratch his chin and say, “Hmmm, I don’t know about that…” Again, as we have seen before, he breaks into praise, and thus invites us to join him in praising God Who provides for His faithful servants in such wondrous ways.
God knows how to provide for the needs of those who are seeking His Kingdom and righteousness as the overarching priority of their lives. Every tinge of hunger, every hint of thirst, any indication of any need whatsoever should lead us, as our first response, to seek the Lord in prayer and praise. Columbanus knew what it meant to have your thirst slaked and your hunger satisfied by being in the presence of Jesus, waiting on Him in prayer. Do we? Is it our default response, in every situation of temptation, trial, need, or uncertainty, to look to Jesus, to bring our requests to Him, to drink from and feed on Him by resting our need in Him and His Word?
The Lord will supply all our needs as we faithfully follow Him. The record of Church history is strewn with testimonies of those who, like Columbanus, saw God intervening for them, in sometimes miraculous but more often ordinary ways. Our Father wants us always to remember that, before all our physical needs, we need Jesus – to be with Him, rest in Him, feed on Him, and grow strong in Him.
And He has given us examples from our heritage – like Columbanus and his monks – to encourage us to seek His Kingdom and trust in Him for all our needs.
Psalm 72.12-17 (Martyrdom: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed)
The Lord the needy rescues when he cries to Him for grace;
All they who suffer violence find mercy before His face.
Let Christ be praised and all the gold of Sheba be His right;
Let blessings to His Name be told, and prayers made both day and night.
And let the earth abound with grain, let fields His fame proclaim;
And may our King forever reign and nations bless His great Name.
Lord Jesus, be always before me, in my mind and on my heart, so that I…
How’s your vision of Jesus? Are you able to look to Him and draw near to Him in every situation? Have you trained your soul to drink and eat from Jesus? Our book, Be Thou My Vision, offers 28 meditations, based on Scripture and writings of Celtic saints, to help you grow your vision of Jesus. Order your copy by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
When We Hunger and Thirst
- T.M. Moore
- January 17, 2019
Turn to the One Who can feed us.
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.