Matthew under the arm 142
So, the pilgrimage with Columba is not coming to an end. Certainly the final verses of Matthew's Gospel have now been reached, but Columba and his companion (probably me!) will separate and pick up the threads of other vocations. Several who have followed this blog (if that is what it is!) have asked me to reveal the mystery of the destination of this pilgrimage.... Mmmm.
I realise that very few have followed this blog. Living in this Diocese of Argyll and The Isles, I have become accustomed to small numbers. Not that I am suggesting I am comfortable let alone complacent about that. From any reading of history or biography that I have done, there have always been crossroads that have been critical in cultural and individual development. Few have been around to witness them, let alone understand them. In this tiny and holy 'precinct' of the Holy and Catholic Church; this majestic and largely untamed region called once by Percy Grainger: 'the Penumbra of Europe', those of us who are dominated and inspired by its unintelligibility, can never claim to have reached a destination or rounded-off some experience. No job is ever done here. St John's Cathedral Oban, is a powerful emblem of precisely that. A complete Cathedral has a disturbing finality to it that closes of, no matter the size, possibility. Our architecture tells our story of incompleteness, a beautiful statement of the fact that we are as Theodore Roszak wrote: 'Unfinished Animals'.
Should this blog continue then? Well, if you have been following it at all, you may have some suggestions. But as a provisional 'walking stick' on this particular pilgrimage, it is bet perhaps that thank God for the opportunity and move on....
So here we are. I dare say this to Columba, as I have learnt that he sees 'conclusions' as the ignoring of dreams, the stunting of growth, the desire to capture for blandishment. 'Place the palms of your hands against this wall', he whispered mystifyingly. 'Why?' I asked with that rather pathetic feeling inside me that this was a pointless question. 'Remain there for a while and when you withdraw your hands you will open your hands with the gift of God's incomprehensible love which radiates even from stone.' Those were the last words I ever heard from Columba. But even that s not true. Throughout our time together I had kept notes of his comments and at least some of his activities, which I have shared with you. They resonate on, at least I hope so. So I placed my hands again on the wall and felt the cold sandy texture almost caressing my palms. And where are we as we touch the shrine of our pilgrimage? Back where we had begun, but strangely higher as if on a spiral. I turned after a while with my hands outstretched. I was alone.
'Setting out for Galilee'. This is a vitally important indicator. For the disciples make their way to the point which they first encountered Christ. So the memory of the story of their discipleship is key. The experience of the raising of Christ that they had at the place of encounter, was an opening, or using a more traditional word, revelation. So the significance of the Raising dawns on them in the place of recollection. The experience of following, of friendship, of betrayal, of rejection, of anxiety, of agony and painful death was the circle on which they had made their pilgrimage.On returning, they did not come back to the exact spot, for that is the journey of nostalgia a best and self-indulgence at worst. Somehow the word 'authority' wakens them to realise that they have come round to their initiation but they are lifted themselves, caught up in the slip stream of the Raising.
MY LOVE OF YOU GATHERS YOU TO THE PLACE OF ENCOUNTER THAT YOU MAY MOVE OUT IN THAT LOVE TO OTHERS.
Find a rock tat you can hold, that is no too heavy but substantial enough that you can feel its significant weight ad size. The age of the rock will be for the human imagination, immeasurable. It is safe to use the word 'timeless'. You had to lift it from somewhere in order to hold it. This was a raising. It is also a return to Galilee. Here is an experience of your beginning! The very stuff o he earth from which you cm an to which you have now returned. However, you have not entirely returned but have moved 'upwards' slightly. So,as you hold the rock, remember you first experience o God, no matter ho trivial and particular it was. Relive it. Tell the story of the encounter. Now replace the rock and lay you hands open as your commitment to allow the gift of your encounter t be passed on. 'I am with you to the end of time'.
A blessing from the Island of Iona
"Be the great Go between your two shoulders
To protect you in your going out and your coming in.
Be the Son of Mary ever near your heart,
And be the perfect Spirit upon you pouring.
Oh, the perfect Spirit upon you pouring. "
Bishop of Argyll and The Isles
Labels: Moving on