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Day 5 – Journal and Reflection

Today (Friday) I had the privilege of waking up in my tent on the Iona Campsite and walking down to Iona Abbey for a guided tour. On entering the Abbey as a pilgrim, I felt the presence of thousands before me who have journeyed to this place. It was an emotional moment at the climax of my four day pilgrimage walk. On this island, I am also deeply struck by the beauty before me, the depth of spiritual meaning around me and the well of inspiration from which I will draw for life and faith in the days ahead.

On the ‘spell’ of Iona, these are the words of Fiona MacLeod (a pseudonym of William Sharp):

‘A few places in the world are held to be holy, because of the love which consecrates them, and the faith that enshrines them. One such is Iona. It is but a small isle, fashioned of a little sand, a few grasses salt with the spray of an ever-restless wave, a few rocks that wade in heather, and upon whose brows the sea-wind weaves the yellow lichen. But since the remotest days, holy people have bowed here in worship. In this little island, a lamp was lit whose flame lighted many nations. From age to age, lowly hearts never ceased to bring there burdens here. And here Hope waits. To tell the story of Iona is to go back to God, and to end in God.’

In this journey, I have indeed brought my burdens and found hope. It started in seeking encounters on the road in faith and life. It is complete on Iona in the shadow of Columba - it is going back to God, and ending in God. Insofar as God can ever be reflected in religious structures that are set up by humanity in His name, at journey’s end I feel a rush of optimism for the future of His ‘church’, however that might be composed and despite the challenges it faces. Through faith and love, there is always trust and hope. For the future, I’m inspired by the prayer below of George MacLeod, founder of the Iona Community in 1938. I’m reminded too of the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem ‘Ulysses’:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

And now, for the never-ending journey of pilgrimage ahead, in Columba’s words:

May the wisdom of God guide you,
May the strength of God uphold you,
May the peace of God possess you,
May the love of God enfold you,
Now and to the end of days.


Day 5 - Prayer

Take Us Outside, O Christ, by George MacLeod (from Iona Abbey)

O Christ, you are within each of us.
It is not just the interior of these walls:
It is our own inner being you have renewed.
We are a temple not made by hands.
We are your body.
If every wall should crumble, and every church decay,
We are your habitation.

Nearer are you than breathing,
closer than hands and feet.
Ours are the eyes with which you, in the mystery,
look out with compassion on the world…
Take us outside, O Christ, outside holiness,
out to where soldiers curse and nations clash
at the crossroads of the world.
So shall this building continue to be justified.
We ask it for your name's sake.