Instructions of Saint Columbanus, abbot
The immeasurable depths of God
od is everywhere. He is
immeasurably vast and yet everywhere He is close at hand, as He Himself bears witness:
I am a God close at hand, and not a God who is distant. It is not a God who is far
away that we are seeking, since (if we deserve it) He is within us. For He lives in us as
the soul lives in the bodyif only we are healthy limbs of His, if we are dead to sin.
Then indeed He lives within us, He who has said: And I will live in them and walk among
them. If we are worthy for Him to be in us then in truth He gives us life, makes us His
living limbs. As Saint Paul says, In Him we live and move and have our
Given His indescribable and incomprehensible
essence, who will explore the Most High? Who can examine the depths of God? Who will take
pride in knowing the infinite God who fills all things and surrounds all things, who
pervades all things and transcends all things, who takes possession of all things but is
not Himself possessed by any thing? The infinite God whom no one has seen as He is?
Therefore let no one try to penetrate the secrets of God, what He was, how He was, who He
was. These things cannot be described, examined, explored. Simplysimply but
stronglybelieve that God is as God was, that God will be as God has always been,
for God cannot be changed.
So who is God? God is the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit, one God. Do not demand to know more of God. Those who want to see into the
depths must first consider the natural world, for knowledge of the Trinity is rightly
compared to knowledge of the depths of the sea: as Ecclesiastes says, And the great
depths, who shall fathom them? Just as the depths of the sea are invisible to human
sight, so the Godhead of the Trinity is beyond human sense and understanding. Thus, I say,
if anyone wants to know what he should believe, let him not think that he will understand
better through speech than through belief: if he does that, the wisdom of God will be further
from him than before.
Therefore, seek the highest knowledge not by
words and arguments but by perfect and right action. Not with the tongue, gathering arguments
from God-free theories, but by faith, which proceeds from purity and simplicity of heart.
If you seek the ineffable by means of argument, it will be further from you than it was
before; if you seek it by faith, wisdom will be in her proper place at the gateway to
knowledge, and you will see her there, at least in part. Wisdom is in a certain sense
attained when you believe in the invisible without first demanding to understand it.
God must be believed in as He is, that is, as being invisible; even though He can be partly
seen by a pure heart.
Saint Columbanus, abbot
Office of Readings:
Thursday, Liturgical Week 7