Colum Cille (6)
The flame of God’s love dwells in my heart
as a jewel of gold is placed in a silver dish.
- Attributed to Colum Cille, “Noli Pater”
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
- 2 Corinthians 5.14, 15
We have barely begun our study of the life and work of Colum Cille, and already it is clear he was a remarkable man. Where does the vision, faith, energy, and perseverance come from to do such work as Colum did?
From the love of God in our heart.
This simile at the end of Colum’s poem, “Noli Pater”, is attributed to Colum Cille, but it was probably added sometime after his death. However it came to be included in one ancient manuscript, its composer believed it spoke truly about Colum. It gives us a glimpse into the heart of this great saint, a heart aflame with the love of God.
Silver has a certain inherent beauty—shiny, luminous, and appealing. Just so the human soul, made in the image of God, is fraught with potential for refracting and radiating the beauty of Christ. The soul that has been converted to Christ has been refined in the furnace of repentance and faith, so that it has the quality of fine silver, ready to be employed in good works.
Set a brilliant golden jewel in that silver dish, shining with its own inherent luster, and the beauty of the jewel reflects in the silver, heightening and transforming the already-precious dish into something more beautiful than it could ever realize by its own inherent potential.
This is what the love of God and Christ does as it comes to rest and glows within our soul, bringing divine glory to fill our mind, heart, and conscience. As the beauty and glory of Christ become seated in our souls, the radiance of His love transforms us from within. From there it issues in our words and deeds to edify others and glorify God—a wondrous combination of His uniqueness working through ours. Thus the love of God refracts through the love we show the people around us.
Whoever penned this couplet, he intended to identify it with Colum Cille. As a scholar, evangelist, and disciple-maker, Colum, one of the great Irish peregrini, reflected the truth of this simile. He was heir to an Irish throne but gave that up to become a scholar trained at the monastery of Finnian of Clonard. He brought many natural gifts and latent potentialities to the task of founding the monastic community on Iona. His soul transformed by the love of Christ and refined under the tutelage of Finnian, he was ready for whatever the love of God might require of him.
But the love of God did not then glow within him as it later would. Events would lead Colum to rebel against his teacher and to foment a battle in which many died, merely to avenge what he considered to be a wrong done to him by Finnian and the local king. He was heart-broken at the violence and death he had caused, repented and renewed his commitment to Christ and the Church, and submitted to banishment from Ireland as his just punishment.
Only the love of God could make all Colum’s potential for service glow with the radiance of Jesus Christ. Only the love of God could transform this hot-headed prince into a hot-hearted missionary. The renewal of Colum’s heart, and the reinfusing of it with the love of God, was the work of grace alone. He knew this, and so he followed wherever the grace of God led him, ultimately arriving at Iona to found a community which would bring revival and awakening to Scotland and beyond.
Paul’s experience was the same. The love of Jesus, which he had come to know so well, filled and controlled him, and he longed for others to know the Savior who had captured him, saved him, transformed him, and lit up his soul with divine vision and love.
Does this flame of God’s love burn and glow in your soul? Are you brought to tears of gratitude as you contemplate the extent the Father has gone to forgive your sins and prepare you for His service? Does your life glow and radiate with the luster of the indwelling Christ? And are you moved—like Colum and Paul—to share that love with those around you?
We must submit afresh to the love of God every day, and seek His grace to help us, that we might refract His love, through our own words and deeds, to the people to whom He sends us.
Today is the day of salvation, another day for showing Jesus to the world. Pray for the people you will meet today, that the love of Christ will glow hot in your soul and control your every word and deed, so that others might experience the touch of God’s grace in you.
1. How can you use your morning time in prayer and Scripture to renew the love of God in your soul?
2. To whom is God sending you today, to show His love and refract His glory?
Psalm 39.1-4 (Woodworth: Just As I Am)
I said, “My ways now let me guard, that I may not sin against You, LORD;
When wicked men surround me hard, then guard my mouth, I pray, O LORD!
No word I spoke, and sorrow grew; with burning soul I turned to You:
“LORD, make me know what I must do to live this fleeting life for You.”
Renew my soul, Lord, so that today, as I go among the people of my Personal Mission Field, I will…
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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. 85.