Colum Cille (14)
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!
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 Cille, “Helper of Workers” (excerpt, 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
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- 1 Corinthians 10.31
George MacDonald wrote, “the way to worship God while the daylight lasts is to work…” Put another way, MacDonald might have said, “If I’m awake, I’m working; and by working, I’m worshiping.”
Colum Cille would have agreed.
For many in our world today, work is a specific part of life we do for a time until we can retire from it. By then, we hope we have amassed sufficient wealth to enjoy our remaining days without having to work.
Such a view of work has no basis in Scripture, as J. I. Packer argued in his helpful book, Finishing Our Course with Joy. The Christian understands that God has called us to work, to exert physical and spiritual energy toward realizing more of the presence, promise, and power of His Kingdom, each of us in our individual callings.
The work we’ve been given to do is greater than the job at which we work. The monks on Iona began their days laboring in prayer. They practiced what would later be said of many monastics, orare est laborare: to pray is to work. Their work continued as they prepared and took meals, listening to readings from the Word of God, feeding their souls as they fed their bodies. From their refection they went to their separate labors, whether in the fields, among the people in the outlying community, in the scriptorium to copy Scripture and other important works, helping those in need, evangelizing the lost, repairing clothes or buildings around the monastic compound, tending to flocks and herds, teaching novices and other students, and so forth. Throughout the day, when the bell rang, they took up the work of prayer, typically praying a psalm wherever they were and whatever they were doing, uniting their voices as one in agreement over the Word.
They worked at their own sanctification. They worked to improve relationships. They worked at teaching or gathering resources to help the needy. They worked as a community to make their Holy Isle home a reflection of paradise to come, as much as they could.
And all the while, following the lead of Colum, they looked to God, the “Helper of Workers”, for the strength, wisdom, grace, skill, and joy they needed to do all their work as unto Him. The monks on Iona did their work each day by laboring together in prayer, worship, singing, ministry, and mutual assistance and encouragement. Did they pray Colum’s poem at the beginning of the day? Or throughout, as they moved from job to job or task to task? They may well have done so. “Helper of Workers” was set in a strict Latin rhythm—four accents per line—with each line ending in the same rhyme, one or another form of the Latin -um. This would have been an easy hymn to learn and chant, doubtless to a variety of melodies. And if brothers sang it together as they worked, they would have encouraged one another with their singing.
Whatever our work, all our help in doing it comes from the Lord. We want our labors to be fruitful for the Kingdom, not vainly pursued with no consciousness of how God can be glorified in even the most quotidian of activities (1 Cor. 15.58). Through our work we are building ourselves as witnesses and ambassadors of Christ; and we are building through all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities toward the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
God will help us in all our work to know His Presence, glorify His Name, and realize more of His Kingdom. But we must do our work—all our work—as unto the Lord, as a work of worship to bring glory to Him and blessing to our world.
1. How would you describe the relationship between work and worship in your life?
2. What will help you remember to do all your work as unto the Lord?
Psalm 90.1, 2, 16, 17 (Landas: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
LORD, You have been our dwelling place from generations gone.
Before the mountains came to be, before the earth was born,
before the worlds, and long before men on the earth first trod,
from everlasting long ago, O God, You are our God!
Now let Your work to us appear; our children show Your might.
And let Your favor rest on us; show mercy in Your sight.
The work that You have given us, confirm, and to us show,
that we Your chosen path may walk and in Your precepts go.
Bless my work today, O Helper of Workers, and use me to…
T. M. Moore, Principal
What in Heaven is Jesus doing on earth?
Jesus rules the world with truth and grace from His throne at the right hand of God. How can we grow in this blessed vision and hope? Our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? can help. Learn more and order your free copy by clicking here.
Support for Crosfigell comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.
And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.
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.