Colum Cille (2)
Ah! Helper of all workers and
Blessed Ruler of all good; You stand
Continuous guard throughout the land,
Defending every faithful man,
Extending lowly ones Your hand,
Frustrating those who boastful stand…
Please, Lord, though I am little and
Quail wretchedly before Your hand,
Rowing hard against harsh winds and
Strong tumults and temptations grand,
That Jesus may reach out His hand
Unto me, I implore—His land,
Verdant and lovely, be my land!
- Colum Cille, “Helper of Workers” (excerpts, my translation)
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
- Psalm 121.1, 2
Among the many attributes that mark Colum Cille as one of the most blessed and fruitful saints of his or any generation is his complete and utter dependence on the Lord. We will see this in many ways as our story unfolds, but we’ll take a closer look at Colum’s heart now through this excerpt from his poem, “Helper of Workers” (in Latin, “Adiutor Laborantium”).
The fact that Colum wrote poetry at all is remarkable. And the fact that his poetry was formal, using well known Latin meters and rhymes, makes his poetry more truly worthwhile. In the Latin version of this poem, the last syllable of every line ends with the same rhyming sound. I’ve tried to reproduce that in my translation, but Colum’s original Latin version is much more adroit.
He called God the “Helper of all workers”. God empowers us for work, so it doesn’t really matter what He calls us to do. Faithful is He Who calls us Who will also bring it to pass (1 Thess. 5.24). God Who rules for good—which has always been His design for the world (Gen. 1.31)—will rule and empower for good works those who trust in Him. He will watch over them, defend them against harm, hold on to them with His hand, and put down those who oppose them as they do the work He has appointed for them.
Such confidence in God’s help made Colum bold in a wide variety of undertakings. He trusted that whatever God called Him to do, He would accomplish through Him. We can have that same confidence in what God calls us to do.
That doesn’t mean that life and our work won’t be hard. Colum’s certainly was. He described himself as “Rowing hard against harsh winds and /Strong tumults and temptations grand”. Denying his birthright as a king could not have been easy. Facing up to ecclesiastical discipline must have been painful. Beginning his ministry all over again on foreign soil surely took its toll, as did evangelizing among the Picts, teaching and training missionaries and scholars, and working with local kings and leaders.
But Colum knew from childhood that Jesus had His hand on him, and he looked faithfully to Him through all his life. Jesus Who called Colum to his work proved faithful, just as He promised. And all Colum ever sought was to realize the promise of a home with Jesus eternally, that “His land/Verdant and lovely”, might be Column’s land as well.
His poem closes with one of the sweetest requests in all Christian literature:
Yes, make my life a hymn to stand
Zealous against those You withstand.
Please grant that paradise my land
In Jesus Christ by grace may be,
Both now and in eternity.
Colum changed the rhyme scheme in the final couplet to emphasize his primary point: Only the grace of Jesus, the “Helper of all workers”, saves and sustains us here and will carry us through this life to new life in glory.
Colum Cille’s heart for Jesus can be our heart as well. But we must not seek our help, salvation, or daily grace from any other source. We must not fail to praise and thank the Lord for all His grace, now and forever. And we must press on in the work we’ve been given to do, knowing that Jesus Who has appointed us to it will enable us to fulfill our calling and to bring glory to Himself through even our most quotidian labors (1 Cor. 10.31).
Look to the heights, where Jesus reigns in glory. Let the Helper of all workers fill, guide, direct, and help you as you serve Him faithfully today.
1. How would you summarize the work Jesus has given you to do?
2. What can you do throughout the day to make sure you’re depending on Him for all your needs?
(Duke Street: Jesus Shall Reign)
You are our Keeper and our Shade; You have our debt of sin repaid!
You will preserve us by Your might; naught shall afflict us day or night.
Lord, You will guard our lives from ill; You will our trembling souls keep still.
All our endeavors You will guard. Eternal praise be Yours, O Lord!
To see Jesus
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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.