St. Columban is the patron of the diocese of Bobbio, and the two doves in the arms of the episcopal city constantly remind the inhabitants of the valley of the Trebbia of the pilgrim from Hiverne, who brought them the glad message of heavenly peace and the blessings of Christian civilization.
- George Metlake, The Life and Writings of Saint Columban
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
- Matthew 6.33
Celtic Christians like Columbanus lived and proclaimed a big Gospel – not just a Gospel for the soul, or for being assured of heaven, but a Gospel that encompassed all of life, and sought to bring the patterns and power of heaven to expression in everyday life.
Which is to say, Columbanus was a man of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus promised that if we will seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, “all these things shall be added to you.” All what things?
In the context, Jesus is talking about food and clothing, which He uses as symbols or tokens of all the various needs we have each day. We need shelter, loving friends, safety from harm, reliable employment, wholesome diversions, and much more. But if we seek these things first, they will not satisfy the deep need of our soul for something that can integrate everything in our lives around eternal verities, promises, and realities.
Seeking the Kingdomas the first priority of life means that we cherish Christ and His righteousness above all our earthly needs, and that in meeting our earthly needs we want nothing that does not further our Kingdom-and-glory calling from the Lord (1 Thess. 2.12).
Celtic Christians understood this. So when “the inhabitants of the valley of the Trebbia” in northern Italy wanted to remember Columbanus, and all he had brought to them, they created a crest that depicted both “the heavenly peace” they obtained through his teaching and “the blessings of Christian civilization” they learned from the example of his monastic family.
This was true in every place where Columbanus established a monastic community. The people in the surrounding communities heard the Good News of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and they observed how living by that Good News brings goodness, order, charity, industry, learning, and productivity to life – the blessings of Christian civilization.
Christians are citizens and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, and their churches are both signs that the Kingdom has come to earth, and outposts from which it continues coming into the world day by day. Which is just to say, that as believers and churches we could embrace no higher aspirations in life than those which were attributed to Columbanus by the people who knew him: To bring the Good News of peace with God and the blessings of His goodness to all the people in our lives.
Is this how we think about our lives? Do our churches aspire to such a Kingdom vision and calling? More likely, we’ve settled into some kind of good-enough-for-me experience of salvation, and we don’t really desire anything more than just more of the same. Jesus said those who are called to the Kingdom force their way into it (Lk. 16.16). If we’re not daily and continually striving and running and fighting and forcing and working to realize more of the presence and promise and power of the Kingdom, then we’re missing the fullness of life as Christ intends it.
We recall that Columbanus was already middle-aged when he left the comforts of Bangor to become a missionary in Gaul. And that he was in the last couple of years of his life when he left Gaul to cross the Alps into northern Italy, where he founded Bobbio, his final monastery. Seeking the Kingdom is life-long, full-time work. And Jesus promised that, if we will keep this priority as our highestpriority, then all the days of our life we will have everything else we need, and we will fulfill that calling – to God’s Kingdom and glory – that is the defining rule of the life of faith.
Listen to Jesus and look to Columbanus and others, and seek the best ways of making this Kingdom calling the driving force in your life as well.
Psalm 72. 15-20 (Martyrdom: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed)
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.
Now bless the God of Israel Who wondrous works performs.
And bless His Name, His glory tell both now and forever more!
Lord, make me a Kingdom-seeker, so that in every aspect of my life 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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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.
George Metlake, The Life and Writings of Saint Columban (Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1914), p. 244.