Looking forward to a wonderful weekend coming up. On Friday I am off for a long weekend away, travelling first to Alnwick and meeting up with two of my daughters and my 8th grandchild now aged 3 months, it will be our first meeting. My daughters are driving up from Norfolk, and it will take them about 6 hours to arrive at this almost half way point. We are spending two days together, visiting Alnwick Castle [Hogwarts to Harry Potter fans] and then I am visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on my way back, somewhere I have wanted to visit and stay for years.
It will take about 7 hours for me to travel down to Alnwick, driving through some of the most beautiful Scottish scenery there is, around Perth and down across the border into England to my destination. My children are related to the De Percy’s of Alnwick Castle, via their father, through a daughter of the house with a beautiful name…Anastasia de Percy born in 1216. My own ancestors King Malcolm 111 of Scotland and his son Prince Edward both died in the first Battle of Alnwick in 1093, so there is a lot of family blood invested and shed in this area.
And then to Lindisfarne with its glorious illuminated manuscripts, its association with St Aidan coming from Iona to Lindisfarne in 635 to found his monastery here and to spread Christianity throughout the world. I have also been to Iona which is very special, on a couple of occasions. It is not far from me, reached by going to Oban, taking the ferry to the Isle of Mull and then travelling across Mull to get the ferry from Fionnphort across the Sound of Mull to Iona. It was here on Iona that St Columba arrived from Ireland in 563 with 12 of his companions and founded his monastery after being banished from his native land for his role in the Battle of Cul Dreimhne. Iona became a renowned centre of learning, and its scriptorium produced highly important documents, probably including the original texts of the Iona Chronicle, thought to be the source for the early Irish annals. The monastery is often associated with the distinctive practices and traditions known as Celtic Christianity. In particular, Iona was a major supporter of the “Celtic” system for calculating the date of Easter at the time of the Easter controversy, which pitted supporters of the Celtic system against those favouring the “Roman” system used elsewhere in Western Christianity. The controversy weakened Iona’s ties to Northumbria, which adopted the Roman system at the Synod of Whitby in 664, and to Pictland, which followed suit in the early 8th century. The Book of Kells may have been produced or begun on Iona towards the end of the 8th century.Around this time the island’s exemplary high crosses were sculpted; these may be the first such crosses to contain the ring around the intersection that became characteristic of the “Celtic cross. Some of my ancestors, Scottish kings are buried here on Iona.
History does not just belong to the past, it accompanies us in our blood through time in our associations, our hopes and dreams and aspirations and beliefs. It is part of the very fabric of who we are. In Christianity there is little room for what we call ‘ancestor worship’, and yet in Celtic Christianity there is the room to incorporate those who went before us, to honour and respect, pay tribute to, incorporate and honour, and learn from and include them in our own walk through time as well as all life, in our praise and love of the Creator. In places such as Iona and Lindisfarne this is still evident, the Celtic inclusion, the circle of time and eternity, that holds all gently within its protective circle.
So much in this day and age is about the other, the difference, the exclusion…and the Celtic is the breath of life, the air that includes all within its gentle sheltering, excluding none. To me this is far more representative of my Creator and the Infinite Love that created All and continues to sustain and nurture all life through billions of universes and those billions beyond that unto infinity. Man made rules and dictates are nothing here, they mean nothing and are given no credence. They are as trifling ants on the elephants back. No priest here is allowed to come between Creator and Creation. No fashion and dictate to hold conferences about whether to accept gay priests, women priests/bishops, divorce, whether divorced people who have remarried and are actively loving each other can or cannot accept communion. None of that. That is not even worth consideration; because it is not God made [exclusion], it is man-made [exclusion]. And thus it is of no relevance to God and is not worthy of our consideration as the children of the Loving God. God is Love and includes all. Instead just drinking in the mountain spring, the cry of the seagull, the woodland creatures, the world of creation that St Francis preached to in celebrating his Creator and Lord, witnessing the crashing pounding of the waves and knowing/being the freedom to celebrate worship and be an integral part of , with and in and through the One Creator free in spirit as we were created to be.
And in this spirit I look forward to my visit to places of my ancestors and to Lindisfarne…