Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Columba of Iona -- Keeper of the Stone!
Of all the leaders of the Celtic Church in the 6th Century A.D., one man stands out head and shoulders above the rest. His name was COLUMBA -- one of the most enigmatic and powerful men of YEHOVAH God that age -- or any age -- has produced. Indeed, so influential was he that the Celtic Church has often been called the Columban Church; and kings of three nations asked to be buried near his grave. Born a descendant of JUDAH, he gave up his claim to the Irish throne to follow the ways of the Messiah. As a SABBATH-KEEPER and observer of the Passover, he traveled the wind-tossed seas with 12 companions and the Stone of Destiny to the tiny island of IONA. From this location off the western coast of Scotland, he preached the Gospel to the Scottic colonies and firmly planted the line of Judah in Scottish soil.
by John D. Keyser
As the little boat slipped away from the rugged shores of Northern Ireland, the striking man with the misty, gray eyes stood looking back at his beloved country. His moistened sight embraced the green hills that were gradually sinking from view. Sad-hearted for the rough sentence that had been meted out to him -- but resolute in spirit -- Columba, along with twelve companions, among whom were his uncle and his cousin, sailed away from the land he loved so dearly and which now must never more be his.
Later, in his beautiful Lament for Erin, he wrote:
"There is a grey eye
That will look back upon Erin:
Which shall never see again
The men of Erin nor her women.
"I stretch my glance across the brine
From the firm oaken planks;
Many are the tears of my bright soft grey eye
As I look back upon Erin.
"My mind is upon Erin,
Upon Loch Lene, upon Linny,
Upon the land where Ulstermen are,
Upon gentle Munster and upon Meath.
"Carry my blessing with thee to the West,
My heart is broken in my breast:
Should sudden death overtake me,
It is for my great love of the Gael.
"Were all Alba mine
From its centre to its border,
I would rather have the site of a house
In the middle of fair Derry."
A Royal Birth
Born on December 7, 521 of royal blood, Columba was baptized Colum -- meaning "the Dove." "Columba" was the Latin rendition of his name. He was also given the Irish name for wolf, but this was later dropped and, instead, his name was lengthened to Columcille, "Colum of the Church" -- "the Dove of the Church."
Columba was of Irish royal stock, very close in the line of succession to the kingship of Tir-Conaill, and the high-kingship of Ireland. This made him a descendant of the Judahite Gathelus, whose son Eremon arrived in Ireland from Egypt shortly after the Exodus. One of Columba's historians notes: "He had the natural right to the kingship of Ireland, and it would have been offered him had he not put it from him for God's sake."
He was, in fact, a descendant in the third degree from Conal Gulban, the founder of the territory of Tir-Conaill and, as a result, in the fourth degree from the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages. As well as this he was born a nephew of the then reigning High-king -- Muircertach MacErca. And a High-king who reigned later in Columba's life -- Ainmire -- was his cousin. His father, Feidlimid, was chieftain of the territory of Tir-Conaill, in which he was born. The blood of Judah also flowed through the veins of his mother, Eithne. She was the daughter of a Munster chief -- of the line of Cathair Mor. States historian Seumas MacManus: "It was only in a time when, as then, the fires of Christianity glowed at white heat, that a man of such, and so many, royal entanglements could turn his back upon wealth, rank and power, and give himself to God."
He grew up to be a man of greater stature than any of his predecessors -- with the possible exception of Patrick. The records indicate he was tall and handsome, and that his voice was extraordinarily powerful and melodious. When he sang in church it was "in an incomparable manner, and was heard at a distance sometimes of four furlongs, sometimes even of eight." He had deep resources of good sense and used it, some say, rather pompously but always without hesitation and to good effect. He was strict with himself and with others, but never put his rule above common humanity -- at times he bent his law when a visitor dropped by, when somebody was sick and in need, and in the case of animals. Impetuous in nature during his early years, he later brought it under control and his inner sensitivity and emotions come over through the heart-wrenching poems he wrote.
Columba's Early Life
Columba was fostered and tutored in his early years by a priest named Cruithnechan -- just a few miles from his birthplace at a location now called Temple Douglas. He later went to three or four other schools for his higher education, ending up with one of the greatest teachers of the time.
Columba studied under the distinguished Finian of Clonard and, in 551, was ordained a priest of the CELTIC CHURCH. As a member of the Celtic church, which was founded DIRECTLY upon the teachings of the apostles of the Messiah who reached Britain shortly after the death of the Messiah, Columba observed the CORRECT PASSOVER and apparently kept YEHOVAH God's true SABBATH day. Peter Berresford Ellis writes that "Rome looked to Peter as its founder while the Celtic Church cited the authority of John. The Celtic Sabbath...had more in common with the Greek service than the Latin" (Celtic Inheritance. Dorset Press, N.Y. 1992).
They began the Sabbath at sunset each Preparation Day (sixth day of the week) and, according to Leslie Hardinge, "The Sabbath was held to be a day of blessing in Wales as well as in Ireland and other Celtic lands" (The Celtic Church in Britain, p. 82).
The Passover was observed on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) and the British historian Bede records that some Christians in Scotland continued this practice well into the seventh century. Not only that, but the FOOT-WASHING CEREMONY instituted by the Messiah in John 13 was also carried out.
Some sources even indicate that the Celtic Church observed PENTECOST and perhaps some of the other holydays of YEHOVAH God!
Notes Ivor C. Fletcher: "The Celts believed in a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of the creation of man and the universe. Free moral agency was stressed, salvation could not be forced on anyone. Obedience of the Ten Comandments was a vital requirement for one wishing to obtain salvation, but even so, the Celtic Christian did not believe in salvation by works [alone]. Salvation was granted by the grace of God through faith" (The Incredible History of God's True Church, p. 144).
Sin was defined as the transgression of YEHOVAH's Law and there was no invocation of saints, angels or martyrs in the early Celtic Church. They believed that Satan and one third of the angels had rebelled against YEHOVAH God and were cast down to earth to thereafter influence human minds following the resurrection of the Messiah.
When he was well qualified, Finian decided to promote the young priest to the rank of bishop. We must remember that the term "bishop" had a different meaning then than it does today. A bishop in the Celtic Church was an "overseer" -- as the term "bishop" really means. A Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament, by John Dawson, defines overseer (from the Greek "episkopos") as "a superintendent, an inspector, a bishop or overseer of the Christian Church."
Columba was sent to a neighboring bishop or overseer for consecration. According to Brendan Lehane "the bishop was in a field [plowing], removed apparently from ecclesiastical matters [or, perhaps, a bishop was more "down-to-earth" in these times!]. He made a mistake and went through the ordination ceremony for a priest. Columba took the event as a sign that God had no use for him as bishop, and refused consecration for the rest of his life" (Early Celtic Christianity. Barnes & Noble Books, N.Y. 1993, p. 114).
He went on to Glasnevin, now a suburb of Dublin, but his stay was cut short by an outbreak of Yellow Fever. Known as the Buidhe Chonaill, this terrible pestilence swept Ireland several times during these centuries and, at this particular time, broke up and scattered the great schools -- including the one at Glasnevin. With the pupils scattered to the four winds and a number of leading teachers dead of the fever, Columba returned home to Tir-Conaill in 544 at the age of about 24 or 25.
Relates Seumas MacManus: "His close kinsman, the Prince of Tir-Conaill, gave him a grant of land, a hill of oaks near where the river Foyle debouches into the Loch of the same name -- where he founded his famous monastery of Derry" (The Story of the Irish Race. The Devin-Adair Company, Connecticut. 1992, p. 162). This land was only a few miles from the old hill-fortress of Aileach, where Queen Maeve (the wife of Conchobar) had held her court and where his own line, the northern branch of O'Neills, now ruled over the surrounding kingdom.
Seven or eight years later Columba founded the monastery of Darrow in the present Kings County; and then, so it seems, his missionary activity became nothing less than extraordinary! He traveled east and west, preaching the Good News, exhorting, organizing communities and churches and founding more monasteries. The records indicate he founded Kells, Swords, Druncolum, Drumcliff, Screen, Kilglass and Drumhome -- and many, many others. In all he is reputed to have founded 30 monasteries and communities in Northern Ireland -- all before the age of 42 when he was exiled from this land.
The Stain in Columba's Life
In 561, an incident occurred that was to change Columba's life forever and change the history of YEHOVAH God's Sabbath in Britain. Not only that, but this incident was also to bring JACOB'S PILLAR-STONE from the hill of TARA to a mysterious, wind-swept island off the coast of western Scotland!
Curan, the son of KING AED of Connaught, who happened to be a hostage at TARA at the time, killed the son of the High-king's steward during a game of caman. He fled from Tara and sought REFUGE with Columba at the monastery of St. Ruan. "King DIARMUID commanded that the young prince should be taken forcibly from Colm [Columba] and put to death -- which was done. For this unforgivable outrage against TRADITIONAL SANCTUARY".... "[Colm] and his monks cried aloud against the sacrilegious violation; and proceeding in solemn procession to the PALACE, pronounced a curse upon its walls. 'From that day,' say the annalists, 'NO KING EVER SAT AGAIN AT TARA...' " (The Story of the Irish Race, by McManus, and The History of Ireland, by Moore).
"Colm, eluding a guard that had been put over him [by King Diarmiud], quitted Diarmiud's domain, and made his way over the mountains to his home in the Tir-Conaill. His kinsmen, the PRINCES of the Tir-Conaill and Tir-Eogain, took up his quarrel, and joining their army to that of AED, King of Connaught, father of the prince who had been put to death, met Diarmiud and his forces at CUILDREMNE, fought and defeated him, with terrible slaughter -- three thousand dead, some say, being left on the field" (The Story of the Irish Race. Footnote #4, p.163).
Tara Falls Silent!
With the death of King Diarmiud after a reign of twenty-one years, the CROWN OF IRELAND reverted to the Eugenian branch of the NORTHERN NIALS -- and the HALLS OF TARA fell silent! Also, with Diarmiud's passing, the last king of the line of Gathelus -- who professed the old pagan Celtic religion -- was removed; and a line of CHRISTIAN KINGS commenced in the DAL RIADA (Irish colony) of WESTERN SCOTLAND.
Thomas Moore notes that in the reign of Diarmait "the ancient HALL OR COURT OF TARA, in which, for so many centuries, the TRIENNIAL COUNCILS OF THE NATION had been held, saw, FOR THE LAST TIME, her kings and nobles assembled within its precincts; and the cause of the desertion of this LONG HONOURED seat of legislation shows to what ENORMOUS HEIGHT the power of the ecclesiastical order [read, "Columba"] had then risen." (History of Ireland, p. 255).
Ronald Hutton also comments on the FALL of the PAGAN Irish kingship:
"During the sixth century, Irish paganism seems to have collapsed. The LAST KING to celebrate a feis, the symbolic marriage to a tutelary goddess, was DIARMAIT [Diarmiud] MAC CERBAILL AT TARA IN 560. Diarmait himself had...a bad reputation in Irish Christian legend, AS AN ENEMY OF SAINTS AND PATRON OF DRUIDS..." (The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles. Basil Blackwell Ltd. Oxford. 1991, p. 263).
After the horrible slaughter at Cuildremne (561), the impetuous Columba gave way to remorse that almost broke his spirit. Adamnan, his biographer, relates that a council was held at Taillte shortly afterward -- where a motion was made to EXCOMMUNICATE Columba from the Celtic Church for his crime. This would have been carried out but for his close friend, Brendan of Birr, who held out against the other members of the council and saved Columba. But his own remorse was tearing him apart. He finally went to Molaise of Devenish or, as some say, Molaise of Inishmurry -- where he humbly confessed his crime before YEHOVAH God and the Church, and asked to be forgiven.
Records Seumas MacManus, "for such a great crime the penance must be great. Knowing the intense love that possessed Colm for his native land, Molaise ordered that he should go forth from his country and behold it never more. Also he should bring to Christ as many souls as there had been lives lost at Cuildremne."
"Alas for the voyage, O High King of Heaven,
Enjoined upon me,
For that I on the red plain of bloody Cooldrevin
Have sinned against Thee."
Columba Removes the Stone
Columba immediately set about retrieving LIA FAIL from the deserted hill of Tara and, with his TWELVE companions, set out across the sea to the tiny island of IONA. They sailed into a bay on the island of ORONSAY in the southern Hebrides as the sun was sinking. When the sun rose the following morning, Columba climbed a high hill to look back toward the land he left behind. He could see, on the horizon's verge -- low and dim in the early morning light -- the land for which he sorely grieved. Here he could not stay!
In his Lament for Erin he wrote:
"To oars again, we cannot stay,
For ah, on ocean's rim, I see
Where sunbeams pierce the cloudy day,
From these rude hills of Oronsay,
The Isle so dear to me!"
Sad in heart, Columba and his companions took to their boat again, spreading their sail to catch a wind that would drive them further from Ireland to the island of IONA. "To his own satisfaction, he was away from the spell of his ancestors. Iona, with cliffs rising to 300 feet in the south, slopes down to a bumpy plain in the north. It is dwarfed by the surrounding terrain, the stark, jagged hills of Mull and the mainland which are a sheer contrast to the round soft fells of Ireland" (Early Celtic Christianity).
With Columba's arrival on May 12, 563, the destiny of the tiny island of Iona was firmly set. As MacManus poetically noted, "on that quiet evening on which the keel of their boat [with its precious cargo -- the royal Coronation Stone] grated on the pebbled shore of this quiet isle, to the world unknown till now, Fame with its thousand wings encircled it and marked it for its own."
The Mother Community
The island of Iona was part of the SCOTIC DAL RIADA -- colonized and ruled by the SCOTS. It is a curious fact that IONA is a Hebrew word that means "DOVE" -- as does the name "COLUMBA" in Latin! KING CONAL, who at this time reigned there, was a direct descendant of Fergus Mor McErc and of the TIR-CONAILL family. He was, in fact, Columba's own kinsman! To the repentant Columba the king made a grant of land where Columba and his disciples could build a home and establish a monastery.
References to "monasteries" in the life of Columba are unfortunate -- the communities he founded bore little resemblance to the great celibate Catholic institutions that dominated Europe during the Middle Ages.
"The earliest Celtic monasteries could perhaps have been more accurately called colleges. They were modeled on the Old Testament cities of refuge, and were communities where Christian men, women and children, living in family groups along with single people, were able to avoid overly close social contact with their pagan neighbours, and enjoy Christian fellowship" (The Incredible History of God's True Church, p. 147).
In The True Ecclesia D. H. Macmillan states that "Monasticism in the Celtic Churches was mainly for the purpose of copying and disseminating the Sacred Scriptures, and was SINGULARLY FREE from the vain acts of physical mortification typical of Latin Christianity" (p. 21).
Richard C. Nickels in his Six Papers on the History of the Church of God writes that "O'Halleron's History of Ireland, p. 172, reports 'that...St. Columba's establishment of a SABBATH-KEEPING COMMUNITY on the island of Iona was the result of St. Patrick's teaching' (part i, page 4)."
One of the first things Columba did upon his arrival was to place the Pillar-stone of Jacob in the church previously built by Fergus. He then expelled the PAGAN DRUID PRIESTS who inhabited the island. Iona had been known as Innis Nan Druidhneah ("The Island of the Druids"), and was a sacred spot long before Columba made landfall in 563.
There were twelve men with Columba at first, but soon friends from Ireland joined them and others (Britons and Saxons) were drawn in. The island became a hive of activity as the buildings were erected and the farm that supported them all was enlarged and put into full production.
They all studied languages (Latin, Greek and Gaelic) and studied the Bible daily, learning much of it by heart -- especially the Book of Psalms. They practiced penmanship -- the art of writing and illuminating -- and produced some remarkably intricate and beautiful works that have come down to us today. All the churches and schools Columba founded in Scotland had to have Bibles, text books and study material, so this alone kept Columba and his workers busy on Iona.
"They studied the stars, too, for they were great navigators and seamen, and they loved to practice singing and music. The monastery was a centre, also, for medical help, and the knowledge of herbs and healing-stones was important...Columba believed too in faith-healing, and it was said of the sick people who sought his help, 'those who believed' were cured" (Peace and Adventure: The Story of Iona, p. 9).
In time Iona "developed into the most famous centre of CELTIC CHRISTIANITY, the MOTHER COMMUNITY of numerous monastic houses, whence missionaries were dispatched for the conversion of Scotland and northern England...." (Encyclopedia Britannica. 1943 edition. Vol. 12, p. 573).
The island became one of the great centers of the Celtic Church and its influence did not decline until the 11th Century. From Iona the truth about YEHOVAH's true Sabbath was spread into the Scottic communities of western Scotland and remained inviolate long after the church in England and Ireland had fallen under the spell of Rome and the day of the Sun.
Columba had not completely severed his ties with Ireland. From time to time his fellow workers in the Messiah came from his homeland to visit him -- men such as the two Brendans, the two Finans, Flannan, Ronan, Comgall, Finbar -- all famous men of his day. All are said to have visited the exile "bringing dearly loved Eirinn to him who to Eirinn could not return." Others too, including abbots of various Irish monasteries, arrived on the island to seek his counsel and advice -- from one whose counsel was prized beyond that of any other Irishman of that time.
Was Columba an Evangelist?
After everything was in order and the buildings under way, Columba started undertaking journeys from Iona into the Scottish Dal Riada on the mainland. He visiting the Pictish monarch BRUIDE on at least one occasion. Most history books claim that Columba's primary goal was to convert the Picts to Christianity; but there is a big problem with this belief.
The Encyclopedia Britannica observes:
"In the beginning of the 5th century, St. Ninian had preached in Strathclyde and had sent his disciples to CONVERT PICTLAND, and it is probable that many of the religious foundations in the north-east of Scotland, generally ascribed to St. Columba, REALLY DATE FROM AN OLDER MISSIONARY EFFORT. Some years before St. Columba landed in Iona, a great Christian teacher, known as St. Kentigern or St. Mungo, was labouring in Strathclyde, and to HIS MISSION is traced the foundation of the future city of Glasgow. ST. COLUMBA, THEREFORE, CANNOT BE SAID TO HAVE CONVERTED SCOTLAND...." (1943 edition. Vol. 20, pp. 154-155).
Author Charles Thomas also notes this strange anomaly:
"Elsewhere in the Life [of Columba], a FEW Pictish families, among a nation depicted as overwhelmingly pagan, were converted and baptized. The Irish or Dalriadic view of Columba's life and work at Iona, which must be set against the Pictish version and which is what Adomnan [7th century biographer of Columba] gives us, implies that Iona, Mull and the Dalriadic Argyll region were already the lands of the SCOTI, ceded by (or won from) the Picts in earlier times. The status of Iona [then] emerges as that of the PRINCIPAL MONASTIC CENTRE FOR THE IRISH COLONIES, contact with the Picts being a SECONDARY ELEMENT.
"The late Kathleen Hughes, in a penetrating analysis, concluded that it is not even clear that Columba converted and baptized the Pictish monarch, STILL LESS that he was in any sense a national evangelist. The (late 6th-and 7th-century) Columban foundation from Iona in Pictland were little more than 'minor cells, established without royal patronage, exercising LITTLE INFLUENCE on society.' Had Columba's Pictish mission been rapidly and widely a success, rivalling the then-retrospective Irish inflation of Patrick's life-work; had he converted the Pictish king Bruide and his court; had he established churches and monasteries throughout Pictland in constant touch with the mother-house at IONA -- then in 690 Adomnan would have said so. But he does not, and we must accept Dr. Hughes' conclusions. Our first evidence that Christianity was a major influence in Pictish society comes AFTER Adomnan's death (704), with the negotiations between King Nechton and the Northumbrian church" (Celtic Britain. Thames and Hudson, Inc. N.Y. 1986, p.104).
If this is true WHY, then, did Columba travel to Iona if not to evangelize the heathen peoples (Picts) of Scotland? HE WENT TO ESTABLISH THE THRONE OF JUDAH IN SCOTLAND and to cater to the spiritual needs of his people the SCOTS!!
Most of the colonists of the Scottish Dal Riada clung to their pagan gods and traditions, and it wasn't until Columba set foot on Scottish soil that a comprehensive conversion of the colony began. The faith he preached -- which included YEHOVAH's true Sabbath and the Passover -- proved a MAJOR FORCE in uniting the people of Scotland. The Picts would have to wait for a later time.
"Delightful to be on the Hill of Howth
Before going over the white-haired sea:
The dashing of the wave against its face,
The bareness of its shores and of its border....
Great is the speed of my coracle,
And its stern turned upon Derry:
Grievous is my errand over the main,
Travelling to Alba of the beetling brows...."
The "Liber Vitreus"
Nine years after Columba arrived in Iona with the CORONATION STONE Conal, king of the Dalriadic Scots in the west of Scotland, passed away. AIDAN, the son of Gauran, succeeded to the throne. Columba was held in such high regard by the clergy and the people, and related to the recently departed king, that he was selected to perform the CEREMONY OF INAUGURATION on the accession of the new king. According to tradition "Columba had been, at first, unwilling to perform this ceremony [crowning of AIDAN on the LIA FAIL]; but AN ANGEL, as his biographers say, appeared to him during the night, HOLDING A BOOK CALLED 'THE GLASS BOOK OF THE ORDINATION OF KINGS,' which he put into the hands of the Saint, and ORDERED HIM TO ORDAIN AIDAN KING, according to the directions of that book. This LIBER VITREUS is supposed to have been so called from having its cover encrusted with glass or crystal." (The History of Ireland, by Thomas Moore. Footnote p. 247).
Records Brendan Lehane: "In the hierarchy he was no more than a priest, yet in influence he was stronger than a metropolitan bishop. And he showed the extent of his influence, when, on the death of Columba's kinsman Conall, king of Dalriada, he was asked to crown the new king (who sat, for the ceremony, on what many claim was the Stone of Scone, now in Westminster Abbey)" (Early Celtic Christianity, p. 131).
Of this same event Peter Berresford Ellis writes that "the FIRST RECORDED 'coronation ceremony' in the British Isles took place that year when Colmcille [Columba] installed Aidan on the sacred Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny) which is now kept in Westminster Abbey" (Celtic Inheritance, p. 108).
As E. Raymond Capt notes, "Aidan was crowned king of Scotland in a CORONATION RITE THAT HAS BEEN USED EVER SINCE by the succeeding monarchs of Scotland and England. The ritual included a CONSECRATION declaring the future of Aidan's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, exactly as was done by JACOB when he blessed his sons before he died." (Jacob's Pillar, p. 45).
A man by the name of Martene, who was a researcher and writer on church antiquities, refers to this inauguration of Aidan by Columba as the MOST ANCIENT INSTANCE OF THE BENEDICTION OF KINGS IN CHRISTIAN TIMES that he had come across in the course of his reading.
Indeed, this was a MILESTONE in YEHOVAH's plan regarding the ROYAL LINE OF JUDAH that was to rule over a large number of His people ISRAEL in their appointed home in the centuries ahead! The prayer which Columba is said to have used at the consecration of King Aidan has been handed down and was used at the Semi-Jubilee service of Thanksgiving for King George V in St. Giles' Cathedral in 1935. The Coronation Stone that Queen Elizabeth II was crowned upon in Westminster Abbey is the very same stone that King Aidan sat on for his consecration by Columba some 1390 years earlier!
The Council of Drumceatt
Shortly after the coronation Aidan, whose claim to the throne of the Dalriadic Scots in Argyll was based on his descent from the ancient princes of Dal Riada (Carbre Riada in particular), asserted his hereditary right to the sovereignty of IRISH DAL RIADA. Since the people of the two Dal Riadas were of the same clan, Aidan claimed kingship over both. The Irish monarch AIDUS contested this claim holding that the tribute and the military support of the Irish Dal Riada were due him alone.
Records Thomas Moore:
"On the grounds of his descent from Carbre Riada, to whom, as we have seen, a grant had been made, in the middle of the third century, of all those parts of the county of ANTRIM [in Ulster] which formed the territory called, from thenceforth, Dalriada, king Aidan ASSERTED HIS HEREDITARY RIGHT to the sovereignty of that territory, and maintained that, as belonging to his family, it should be exempt, if not in the whole, at least in part, from the PAYMENT OF TRIBUTE to the king of Ireland, and from all such burdens as affected the rest of the kingdom. The IRISH MONARCH, on the other hand, contended that the territory in question formed a portion of his dominions, and had always, equally with the rest, been subject to imposts and contributions; that, before the Dalriadians became sovereigns in Britain [Scotland], such tribute had been always paid by that principality, nor could the election of its princes to a throne in North Britain make any difference in its relations to the Irish monarchy) (The History of Ireland, pp. 248-249).
It was agreed that the difference between them should be submitted to the states-general of Ireland at the NEW CENTER of the Irish monarchy in DRUMCEATT, ULSTER, and that the final decision of this case should be left to Columba -- who was equally concerned on both sides. Columba, therefore, was allowed to return from his exile to attend.
"Setting out in a small vessel, attended by a few monks, the Saint [Columba] and the king directed their course to the north; and, AFTER ENCOUNTERING A VIOLENT STORM in the open sea, landed at the mouth of the river which runs into Lough Foyle, and from there proceeded to Drumceat" (The History of Ireland, by Thomas Moore, p. 247).
"O Son of my God, what a pride, what a pleasure
To plough the blue sea!
The waves of the fountain of deluge to measure,
Dear Erin, to thee.
"We are rounding Moy-n-Olurg, we sweep by its head, and
We plunge through Lough Foyle,
Whose swans could enchant with their music the dead, and
Make pleasure of toil."
What a dramatic scene it must have been when Columba arrived at the head of his company! This man of YEHOVAH God, whose name was a household word in all of Ireland -- cherished in most and feared in some. "What commotion must have been there; what craning of necks; what straining of eyes; what stamping of feet; what rattling of spears! What a fierce hurrah must have torn from the throat of the Conallach and the Eoganach, and from the men of many a sympathetic clan!" (The Story of the Irish Race, p. 167).
With the arrival of Columba and King Aidan the assembly commenced judgment on the matter of the two Dal Riadas, as well as many other issues -- the Convention of Drumceatt is said to have remained in session for a whole year. Columba, however, declined to be judge in the matter, and referred it to Colman, the son of Comgallen who decided that "the Irish Dal Riada should be directly and entirely subject to the Ard-Righ of Ireland, paying him tribute and supplying him with the military levies, but they should be allies of their brethren over the Channel, the Scottish Dal Riada, and in case of a war of theirs against the Picts, or the Britons, should supply them with a fleet" (Ibid., p.169).
Thomas Moore writes:
"Notwithstanding his known attachment to king AIDAN, so great was the general trust in Columba's sense of justice, that to him alone the decision of the question was first referred. On his declining, however, to pronounce any opinion respecting it, the task of arbitration was committed to St. Colman -- a man deeply versed, as we are told, in legal and ecclesiastical learning,who, on the obvious grounds, that Dalriada, being an Irish province, could not but BE SUBJECT, in every respect, to the MONARCH OF ALL IRELAND [AIDUS], gave his decision AGAINST the claim of king Aidan" (The History of Ireland, p. 250).
From this time forward, the Scottish colony in Argyll went its own way and became INDEPENDENT of the mother country, Ireland.
Columba and King Aidan took their leave of the council and Columba then visited his beloved Derry monastery. During this visit he wrote a poem which is regarded as his masterpiece. It opens as follows:
"Horror of night when none can work,
Wailing of men and flooding tears,
Opening the books by conscience write,
Rising of hearts with guilty tears
"Kings early glory fleeteth fast,
And for a moment is its stay,
God hath all might, and at a nod,
The giants fall beneath his sway.
"Mark the power of God supreme,
Hath held aloft earth's giant ball,
And fixed the encircling deep,
His mighty hand supporting all."
Columba Returns to Iona
After a few months in Ireland, Columba returned to Iona and his charge in the Scottish Dal Riada. He resumed his arduous duties, working, teaching, preaching, writing, traveling and baptizing those among his people who repented and wished to serve YEHOVAH God. Columba, knowing that conversion to YEHOVAH's way of life could only come by real knowledge, refused to baptize those who were not instructed in the fundamentals of the Bible or were too young to understand. "He therefore began to organize the work throughout the kingdom, and with the help of a hundred and fifty followers whom he called 'The Order of the Fair Company,' he built churches in the glens and sent teachers to guide and instruct the folk" (Peace and Adventure: The Story of Iona, by Ellen Murray. Wild Goose Publications, The Iona Community. 1987).
He wrote much during this time -- mainly copying the scriptures. Occasionally he set down a poem or a hymn of his own composing. Since one of Columba's basic qualities was his indomitable, never-flagging energy, he firmly believed that those around him should be just as energetic -- and insisted on it! The rule in Iona was that the day should be divided into three parts: One part for good works; one part for prayer; and one part for reading. His dictum was, "Let not a single hour pass in which you do not devote yourself to prayer, reading, writing or some other useful work."
"He prayed and he worked wholeheartedly. He went out in the fields with the brothers, and in storm or shine toiled as one of themselves. He devoted much indoor time to copying of the Scriptures and other writings. His bed was on the bare ground, with a stone for his pillow [like Jacob]; sparing himself not, and spending himself ever, as well for his own benefit as for his followers' encouragement" (The Story of the Irish Race, p. 170).
He lived and worked, inspiring countless other workers, and was a huge influence in two countries for almost a quarter of a century after his death.
The Passing of a Man of YEHOVAH God
In the year 597 death came to Columba. During the May of that year, he visited the farm on the west side of the island where his brethren grew the crops necessary for the survival of the settlement. "...he visited the great barn in which was stored the community's stock of food, and rejoiced in the great store he found there, which would insure plenty for his beloved ones for that year. With exceeding earnestness he blessed the barn that it should ever hold and give in plenty to the ardent servants of God. Then he said to those who stood around him: 'THIS DAY IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES IS CALLED SABBATH, which means rest. And this day is indeed SABBATH TO ME, for it is the last day of my laborious life, AND ON IT I REST. And this night...I shall go the way of my fathers.'...At the end of the day, when it came time for the SABBATH VIGILS [evening prayers], having reached the end of a page, he laid down his pen, saying: 'Let Baithen write the rest.' And his last written words were those of the thirty-third psalm -- 'They that seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good.'"
His mourning followers bore the body of their beloved teacher and brother to the little cemetery of Iona. A great multitude of sorrowing Islanders and their chiefs followed up behind, and watched in silence as this singularly great man of YEHOVAH God was laid under the earth. It was a June night, but a great storm raged in the Sound preventing anyone from landing on the island. As a result, Columba had his wish granted that at the last he should be tended and buried by his beloved friends -- the Family of Hy (another name for Iona). "They made his stone pillow his gravestone, and buried him it is supposed, near where St. Oran's Chapel now stands, but the exact spot has been forgotten."
Some two hundred years later his remains were disinterred and placed in a shrine, which was afterward kept in the Church. His remains have since disappeared and the historians are not sure what happened to them. Legend has it his remains were transferred from Iona to Dunkeld (near Scone) in Scotland and, when borne into battle by its keeper, was held to bring victory providing the cause was just. The famous shrine (Reliquary), with Columba's remains, was borne by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn on June 24, 1314 -- which resulted in a resounding defeat of the English by the troops of Robert the Bruce, thus avenging the death of William Wallace nine years earlier.
The role of Columba in the history of Scotland -- in setting up the throne of Judah and bringing the Gospel to the Scottic Dal Riada -- was long remembered. Before his death, he predicted that "Unto this place, small and mean though it be, great homage shall yet be paid, not only by the kings and people of the Scots, but by rulers of foreign and barbarous nations and their subjects. In veneration too, shall it be held by men of other churches." In the cemetery of Iona are buried all the kings of Scotland up to the 11th century -- including Duncan I and his murderer, MacBeth of Shakespearean fame.
In Buchanan's History of Scotland it is recorded:
"Amidst the ruins there remains still a burying place or cemetery, COMMON TO ALL THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF THE WESTERN ISLES, in which, conspicuous above the rest, stand THREE LARGE TOMBS, at a little distance from each other; on these are placed sacred shrines turned toward the east, and on their Western sides are fixed small tables, with the inscriptions indicating to whom the tombs belong. That which is in the middle, has as its title, "Tumulus Regum Scotiae" the TOMB OF THE KINGS OF SCOTLAND, for there FORTY-EIGHT kings of the Scots are said to have been buried. The one upon the right is inscribed, "Tumulus Regum Hiberniae," the TOMB OF THE KINGS OF IRELAND, where FOUR Irish kings are reported to rest. And upon the one on the left is engraved, "Tumulus Regum Norvegiae," the TOMB OF THE KINGS OF NORWAY, general rumour having assigned to it the ashes of EIGHT Norwegian kings (p. 47).
Since Columba's time a steady stream of visitors from all over the civilized world have visited Iona.
His prophecy has been fulfilled in an amazing fashion!
AN ODE TO COLUMBA
"He left his targe and claymore
Where Irish waters foam:
He left his father's palace
To build his Father's home.
He built it not of ivory,
But of wattle grass and rod,
And the only armour left him
Was the panoply of God.
His Bible -- which he once had kept
Beneath his soldier's kit --
Became his foremost weapon:
For he found the Word would fit
Far closer than a coat of mail,
To defy the fiercest dart
The Devil could let fly at him
(Which is the Devil's part).
"He who once fed on venison,
On fat tame geese of 'Derry,
And drank the spacious wines of France,
Now feasted on the berry,
On carrageen -- from seaweed made --
And Camus-netted fishes,
And drank the cold spring water
Drawn up in wicker dishes.
(You can see the spring today there
With the wicker for the dishes;
Even now you sometimes eat
"Of Camus-netted fishes.)
Yet still it was a richer fare
Than 'Derry courts had given,
For crowning every Sabbath
Was the food that came from heaven.
The strong rich bread from far Tiree
And wine from heather blending
That consecrated hearts had made
The feast -- that hath no ending --
But still is ours (as is that spring
Beneath its common board),
For our taking or our passing,
The gift of the living Lord."
G. F. MacLeod
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