Colum Cille (15)
Father, do not allow thunder and lightning,
lest we be shattered by its fear and fire.
We fear you, the terrible one, believing there is none like you.
All songs praise you throughout the host of angels.
Let the summits of heaven, too, praise you with roaming lightning,
O most loving Jesus, O righteous King of Kings.
- Colum Cille, Noli Pater, Irish, 6th century
Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”
- Revelation 10.4
Life on Iona could be terrifying at times. Fierce storms were not uncommon, and so we’re not surprised to see that Colum sought a way to prepare his monks for stormy seasons by pointing beyond the storms to the Lord. His poem, “Noli Pater” (“Father, Do Not”), must have been frequently recited and sung around Holy Isle.
Like the apostle John, Celtic Christians heard the voice and glimpsed the Presence of God in created things. Storms, winds, seas, rivers, lakes, woods, animals, and plants all spoke to Celtic Christians about the infinite goodness, wisdom, beauty, majesty, power, and mystery of God.
They lived close to the creation, not just because they chose a simple way of life, but because they found true fellowship with God in created things. The creation reminded them of God’s abundant goodness, all the ways He provided for their needs. It led them to extol His wisdom, greatness, beauty, might, and power. On occasion, something in the creation caused the will of God to coalesce in the mind of a Celtic saint, and what had previously been unclear from the Word of God in Scripture suddenly came together by a word of God from creation.
John heard the thunders say something, although he was not permitted to write it down. But he was able to interpret the crash and clap of lightning bursting through the heavens as something like a word from God. He knew that the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19.1-4), and he had evidently trained his senses to hear and understand what God was saying to him through created things.
The works of God in creation do, indeed, declare His glory. The psalmist said that the works of God are studied by all those who delight in them (Ps. 111.2). When we realize that God is revealing Himself and His glory in created things, we will delight to pay more attention to them. And, as our delight in creation grows, we will make the time to examine and understand it more closely, waiting on Him to make Himself known to us in the things He has made.
Every passing bird, every cloud, tree, flower, blade of grass, change of weather, or random stone, has something to say to us from and about our God. We, too, can learn to hear the voice of God in creation, but not without a little practice.
As you read through the Scriptures, consider the various images from creation that God employs to tell us something about Himself: storms stilled—His great power; animals feeding—His faithful provision; people working—His distribution of gifts and abilities; mountains looming or storms coming in—His majesty and might; lilies bedecked with beauty—His lavish provision; sparrows and mustard seeds—His love for and delight in even the most minute details of our lives. Let these images be the starting place for you to begin developing the discipline of hearing the voice of God in creation.
Praise Him for the snows, which blanket the bleak earth with uniform whiteness and radiant beauty, just as the righteousness of Jesus covers us and all our sins. Rejoice in each new dawn, and praise God for the Sun of Righteousness, Who has risen with healing in His wings (Mal. 4.2). Stand in awe beneath the myriad stars, planets, and galaxies of the night sky, and remember with humility and gratitude that He Who made and sustains these, cares even for you and your daily work.
On Iona, fear that arose because of a storm would give way to the fear of God. Fear of God would lead to praise for His mercy and grace. Praise during a storm led Colum and his monks to hear even thunder and lightning praising Him. And because this mighty God was their Father, they could rest in Him.
Creation is speaking. Are we listening? Colum was, and we are encouraged by his example to delight in and study the works of creation as well.
God’s glory is in there, oozing forth and flashing out from the things He has made. Ours is the privilege of seeing that glory, discerning the voice of God in it, and making His glory known to others (Prov. 25.2; Hab. 2.14).
1. How might learning to hear the voice or see the glory of God in creation strengthen your daily walk with Him?
2. Have you ever sensed God speaking to you from some aspect of creation? Share your thoughts about this with a Christian friend.
Psalm 111.7, 8 (Manoah: When All Your Mercies, O My God)
The works of Your all-sovereign hands are faithful, Lord, and just.
Your precepts evermore are true and worthy of our trust.
Let me hear Your voice or see Your glory in the creation around me today, O Lord, and I will…
T. M. Moore, Principal
The witness of creation
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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.