The Celtic Revival: Age of the Peregrini (3)
By the grace of God Colum rose to exalted companionship;
awaiting bright signs, he kept watch while he lived.
His lifetime was short,
scant portions filled him.
He was learning’s pillar in every stronghold,
he was foremost at the book of complex Law.
- Dallàn Forgaill, Amra Choluimb Chille, Irish, 6th century
My foot has held fast to His steps;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food.
- Job 23.11, 12
The life of a Celtic monk like Colum Cille was short and spare. Most of his waking time was spent working, either at the ministry of the Word, in one form or another, serving within the community around his monastery, or providing for his needs and those of his companions.
It would be fair to say of the best of them, like Colum Cille, that they cared more for the Word of God than the conveniences and necessities of the flesh. Indeed, it was fierce hunger for God’s Word that resulted, as one account has it, in Colum’s being exiled from his native land to the barren island of Iona off the northwest coast of Scotland.
As a young monk, still in training, Colum was discovered surreptitiously making a copy of the gospels for personal use. This was strictly against monastic rule in those days, as resources such as velum and ink were scarce, and the life of a monk was about community and not self. Colum’s abbott, Finnian, insisted he relinquish the work into the keeping of the monastery’s scriptorium. Colum refused to hand over his treasured cathach (gospel book) until he was ordered to do so by the local king. Furious at the humiliation he endured, he provoked a battle in which many were killed.
Colum sorrowed greatly at his hot-headed action, and he submitted to the discipline of the church. Church leaders recognized his love for the Word and skills in leadership, but they banished him from Ireland, so that he might prove his true commitment to the Lord in a foreign land.
Colum accepted exile as his penance. As sad as he was to leave his beloved homeland, he grew in joy daily by at last being free to devote himself to the Word and to proclaiming and teaching it with all his strength. As Dallàn notes, though his fleshly diet was scant, he feasted on God’s Word, and particularly His Law, until he became a pillar of truth beloved by contemporaries and successors alike.
How fierce is our love for God’s Word? What are we willing to sacrifice to become more conformed to the teaching of God’s Word and the likeness of Jesus Christ? What comforts and conveniences do we set aside to gain more time for reading and studying the Bible? Is it evident to all, by the strength of our souls, that we prefer to feed on the Word above all fleshly needs or desires?
Colum and the other peregrini of ancient Ireland were diligent students of the Word, ardent preachers of its truth, and effective equippers of others to know, love, and live the Word of God. They are an example to us of what God can do with people who eagerly and consistently submit to His Word. Hunger for God’s Word is a mark of true discipleship. If we are not hungry for the Word of God, it’s because we have filled up with some other food, food which can never satisfy the deep longings and rich potential of our souls.
When we’re hungry, we eat. When we truly hunger for God’s Word, we’ll find ways to feast more often on it. As we do, we’ll find our own peregrinatio pro Christo, in our own Personal Mission Field, greatly enhanced and enriched.
1. What does someone look like who is hungry for God’s Word?
2. Would you describe yourself this way? Are you hungry to learn more of God’s Word? Explain.
Psalm 19.7, 8 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimonies sure;
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.
Lord, fill my heart with joy from Your Word, and lead me today to…
Personal Mission Field
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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.
 Clancy and Márkus, p. 107.