Celtic Spiritual Poetry (4)
Father, Do Not
O Father, hear our earnest plea,
that we may not unsettled be:
Loud thunder’s threats let us not fear,
nor lightning’s fire when it comes near.
We fear You, God, the dreadful One;
besides You, other gods are none.
As angels raise their voice in praise,
we sing with them through all our days.
Let heaven praise You from the heights,
and roaming lightning’s brilliant lights.
O loving Jesus, King of kings,
Your righteousness creation sings.
- Attributed to Colum Cille (521-597)
Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The LORD is over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
- Psalm 29.1-4
The poem Noli Pater (“Father, Do Not”) is attributed to Colum Cille simply because it is associated with Iona and bears many similarities to “Helper of Workers.” Each line in the Latin consists of 8 syllables, and consistent end-rhymes appear throughout the poem, though in couplets rather than a single sound.
The striking feature of this poem, and which makes it such a wonderful song, is the way it begins with an aspect of creation and turns that to the worship of God. “Father, Do Not” is a plea to God to keep us from losing sight of His power amid the fears, worries, and concerns that arise in the normal course of our lives. It enables us to rule our hearts so that we fear what we ought to fear, and overcome all earthly fears by joining our voices with angels and creation to praise the Lord.
We can imagine that Colum’s outpost on Iona, off the northwest coast of Scotland, was often battered by storms. Flashes of lightning and loud bursts of thunder must have seemed terrifying at times. Our poem was designed as a prayer to help the monks of Iona keep fearful natural events like storms in a proper perspective. It asks simply that God the Father would not allow us to cower before storms, but would use the storms to remind us to fear Him. Offending Him is much more to be dreaded than being caught in the midst of a storm. He is Lord of all storms, and there are no other gods besides Him.
Our fear of God is properly expressed not in cowering before Him, but in praise, as the angels do. Angels praise God continuously, and praise can be for us an antidote to fear, since it focuses us beyond our fears to the One in Whose care we rest secure. Then, in praise to God, we can see that even the things of creation that cause us to fear are only praising God in their own unique ways. Thus, our fears properly refocused in praise, fear resolves into love for Jesus, our King, and we chuckle in ourselves to realize that creation is only praising Him with us as we sing, and therefore holds nothing for us to fear.
This poem reminds me of Psalm 29, which I believe David wrote to quell the fears of his small children in the face of a particularly terrible storm. He addresses it, not to “mighty ones” as NKJV has it, but to “children of the Mighty One” (v. 1). The LORD Who rules lightning, thunder, rain, and all creation is their Father, and they can rest in Him by praising His glory and strength. No passage of Scripture repeats the sacred name of the LORD more frequently in a short space than this psalm – 18 times in 11 verses! David repeats the sacred name to refocus the fears of his children, and to remind them of God’s power, which is greater than the storms. God Who reigned at the time of Noah’s flood reigns yet today. He commands the storms and winds and lightning; and He gives strength to His people and blesses them with peace (vv. 10, 11).
The spirit of this idea – singing to quell our fears – can be found in the song “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, which Anna sings to help her son overcome the fear of moving to a new and strange place (The King and I). There is power in singing to renew our hearts, especially when the focus of our song is on our great, sovereign, and loving Father and King.
You can sing “Father, Do Not” to several familiar hymn tunes, including Duke Street (Jesus Shall Reign) and Truro (Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns). You may have to work at the melisma a bit, but try it out. And try singing “Father, Do Not” at different times during the day. See how it turns your soul from mundane matters to eternal truths, and to the comfort of our rest in God, and the loving care of our exalted Savior and King.
Colum Cille was not only a great scholar, missionary, and disciple-maker; he was a sensitive and pious shepherd whose wisdom, grace, and loving care still reaches us today in a poem like “Father, Do Not.”
Questions for Reflection
1. What kinds of natural things or circumstances cause you to fear? Do you think singing to the Lord might help you deal with those fears better?
2. Fearing God and loving Him are two sides of the same coin. Why?
Psalm 29.1-6 (Toulon: I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art)
Give praise to God, you children of the earth!
Tell of His strength, proclaim His glorious worth!
Give to the Lord the glory due His Name!
Worship in holiness; His grace proclaim!
Over the waters, over thunder’s roll,
God’s voice creation’s mighty pow’rs controls!
Cedars collapse at His majestic Word;
Nations are shaken by our mighty Lord!
Whenever I feel afraid, Lord, remind me of Your love, and help me to…
You can support our work
Share today’s Crosfigell with a friend, and encourage your friend to subscribe by going to our website, www.ailbe.org. Pray for our work at The Fellowship of Ailbe, and, as the Lord leads, share in our work by your giving. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate onlinethrough credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
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.
Amplified translation by T. M. Moore