Iona Pilgrimage

To Journey together on the pilgrimage was to take in some of what had been spoken of on our first night as part of the Iona community. Walking together learning more about new friends helping each other. Getting wet and muddy sharing food doing life together. and welcoming others into the community. AS those staying in the MAC and the ABBEY were joined by those on IONA for the day or staying in one of the GUEST HOUSES and HOTELS.. two pilgrimages run and meet up for tea during the day. a longer off road walk and a shorter road based one.

The quotes found on the pilgrimage are from Peter Miller's book IONA: A Pilgrims Guide 

The Pilgrimage began by meeting together outside the ABBEY..

Below are the reflection from different parts of the pilgrimage in the order we visited.

St Martin's  Cross -

The cross was named after a Hungarian born roman soldier from the fourth century who on a cold night took his cloak and cut into two pieces giving one half to a disabled person. shortly after this he saw a vision of Christ and was baptised. Gave up his military service and was to become known for his objections to serving in the army.

"martin died in 397 at the age of eighty and was buried on 11 November, a day which centries later would be associated with peace-maling and reconciliation"
After a short walk we reached the ruins of the Nunnery... which with the backdrop of a clear blue sky looked stunning.

The Nunnery

The Abbey of Iona is well known but the Nunnery built roughly about the same time is often over looked.
" there is little historical recored of the life of the countless women who lived together in this place for over 300 years''
As we were walking through the ruins in quiet  we were asked to pray for those women who today find themselves struggling more often than not in silence  for freedom, for justice and those living in poverty and exploited... 

A Prayer from South African Women 
" Let us dream, Let us prophesy. Let us see visions of love, peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage, that you, O'christ, are the life of every child, women and man."
The Cross Road

This is the only cross road on the island, a place in the past where information was shared. We stood for a while and looked round at those travailing with us. Iona is often a place where people come at a cross road in there life a place to think to pray to rest before moving on agin. 

The Machair

This is common land, used by the local farmers for grazing and as a golf course. The Machair is a place of sharing and one that shows of the determination and courage of the Iona residents. 
New years eve 1865 a three mastered ship The Guy Mannering on the way to America carrying cotton and grain was blown off course and into the shores of Iona as it touched the land it b, The community came together making a human chain out into the sea. through there efforts 19 lives were saved..  Those who could not be rescued were laid to rest in the islands cemetery. 
the machair is a place of sharing- 
''it is on fertile soil, the place of sharing that we who are contemporary pilgrims in an increasingly privatised society, stop for lunch on our return from Columba's bay - eating together and giving thanks to God for all His blessings''
The challenge here was to think about how we share what we have both in local community and in the world 

We did not stop here for lunch we instead went down to Columba's bay and their ate, on the way back to the machair sharing tea and snacks with the shorter road based tour 

St Columba Bay

This was one of my favourite places on the pilgrimage and not just because it meant time for lunch. There was a gentle breeze blowing and sitting on top of a large rock with two Dutch friends in the sun listening to the wave tapping against the shore was perfect.

The bay takes its name from St Columba and is linked to his arriving on Iona here in 563 on the day of Pentecost. 

The bay is a place of leaving behind the old and starting forward to the new.. 
'' They pulled up their boats onto the beech and left everything and followed Jesus'' Luke 5:11
As a time of reflection we were asked to pick up two stones.. One  to be thrown into the sea, one to take away. 
As we held one to think about something in our lives that we would like to leave behind to give up to God. Then to throw it into the sea.
The second to take away as a remembrance of that commitment.. 

Loch Staonaig ( the rocky pool ) 

Until recently the loch supplied the drinking water to the Island and comes out peat coloured   ( or as the Lead pilgrim said Whiskey Coloured well it is Scotland after all) 

Here we stopped 

As we in our tiredness after a climb up from the bay look at the water an remember that Jesus is the water of life there too is the tension that water is not always life bringing

We thought of those who have difficulty finding fresh drinking water. That 1/6 of the world have no access to water easily.

Those who each day walk miles to fetch water for their families, those for whom the rainy season is a sign of hope on parched lands, relief as crops are satisfied. Yet water for some as in Pakistan right now there is too much water. 

High Point

This wasn't the highest point of the island (Thats Dun I) but the highest we got to go on the pilgrimage as we reached to top we looked round and took in the beauty around seeing over to Mull, Staffa, the Dutchman's Hat and one or two others that I can't remember now. 

as we did this psalm 121 one was read....
I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

High places have always been held a place as special, people often talk of a Mountain top experience

''in the biblical tradition, mountains and hills have been understood as places of vision and transfiguration. Here on the 'mountain top' we are reminded of one of George MacLeod's great prayers''

Invisible we see you Christ above us,
With earthly eyes we see above us clouds or sunshine
But with eyes of faith we know you reign:
instinct in the sun ray,
speaking in the storm,
warming and moving all creation,
Christ above us.
All is in flux; turn but a stone and an angel moves.
Underneath are the everlasting arms.
Unknowable we know you, Christ beneath us

Hermit Cell

As we reached the hermits cell we gathered together in the quiet, down in a small valley. times of solitude to gather ones self as Christ did before his father to pray and mediate on scripture. 
We sat and sang Be still and know that I am God 

And listend to the story of Elijah as God met him in the still small voice. The God who meets us in the silence of the heart  
Of all the places on the pilgrimage today this was the one that was the most uncomfortable to be at the quiet the permeated deep within and a stillness to match. 

St Oran's Chapel
Oran's Chapel is the oldest of the building on Iona
To reach the chapel you have to pass through the ancient burial ground of Reilig Odhrain the burial place of at least 48 kings of scotland and the resting place of former labour leader John smith. A strange place maybe to finish the pilgrimage, maybe . but here also the place of new beginnings, leaving this life and going on to eternal life with God. 
"Christians have always celebrated the fact that it was in the burial place that the resurrection faith began "
To close this part of the pilgrimage for though this day was coming to a end the walk completed the journey continues. and the closing prayer was one from the Iona community.

May God's goodness be yours, 
And well, and seven times well, may you spend your lives:
May you be a isle in the sea,
May you be a hill on the shore,
May you be a star in the darkness,
may you be a staff to the weak
And may the power of the Spirit
Pour on you, richly and generously,
Today and in the days to come.