This hymn was inspired by Moses’ experience of the glory of God when he climbed Mount Sinai. This is described in Exodus 24:12-18 set for the Old Testament reading for the Stigmata (in the Australian Third Order Manual).
The snake, in his tempting, makes us confused,
What is the sin, what punishment to come?
Is it pride, or wisdom or God’s traits to be used
that we deeply desire with our heart’s sum?
The snake, in his tempting, is skilled at misleading,
Look here, I’m a snake! Flabby sin at that address!
Is it sex, is it shame, is it clothes now receding?
Our focus is blurred by cold thoughtlessness.
The snake, in his tempting, makes our souls judder,
Shining skin in its blackness pretends to go deep:
Is it fear, is it self’s fickle flutter
that we dunk our souls in ourselves to steep?
Banish this snake, his crooked advance and sick ways,
Place God at the heart of our loupes’ precious gaze.
Forget your poverty for a moment,
let us think of the world’s hospitality –
the son of Mary will bring you prosperity,
and every guest will have their share.
Often what is given away comes back
to the generous hand,
and what is kept back disappears altogether.
O living God!
— St Columba
Paraphrased from Franciscans Day by Day December 17
[Franciscans Day by Day is a set of short readings for the year prepared by the JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) group of the Third Order, Society of Saint Francis in the Province of the Americas.]