Scotland 2015 #4 – Iona Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage is such an essential aspect of Iona. Anyone who comes here, even if only from Mull (which means very few) has had to make some sort of pilgrimage. Back in the 6th century Columba journeyed from Ireland to Iona on a boat called a ‘coracle’. Pilgrimage … journeying is essential as I see it to being Christian.

So … not for the first time I took the weekly Tuesday 4 hour pilgrimage around much of Iona. On road, that is. Many from our group took the 7 hour off road version- through bogs, rocky cliffs etc. I managed it 10 years back – not now 😀

Under the delightful leadership of Dora from Uganda we headed off from St Martin’s cross, just outside the Abbey. This is the oldest original Celtic cross on Iona – first erected in the 13th century.

Every 10 minutes or so on our pilgrimage we would stop, while Dora explained a spot’s historical or religious significance. She would then lead us in some verses from scripture, offer a prayer and invite reflection. For example, at the Nunnery ruins we reflected on significant women in our lives.

At Martyr’s Bay and following some words from Oscar Romero we reflected on those Christians who have suffered much for their faith. Would we? Have we?

When we came to a crossroads, we were caused to reflect on directions our life had taken … those still needing to be taken. 

When we came to the Macchair (a long raised, grassy beach on the Atlantic west) we enjoyed warning hot Tea and flapjacks 

Then movingly we walked to the water’s edge – the shore astrewn with rounded small rocks. We were invited to take two rocks; to throw one symbolically into the water – signifying what we have chosen to let go of in our life; the second to keep – a reminder of what in hope we need to hang on to.

    Then, the sun shining beautifully on the island mid afternoon, we headed back towards the Abbey to St Oran’s Chapel – oldest surviving religious building (12th century) on Iona. 48 early Scottish monarchs  are buried there. Just so much history at this place, and that’s before you even start on the Christian spirituality!

Yet another stimulating experience – physical, spiritual, communal and historical all in one. My tired legs will rest well tonight. Tonight is the weekly Service of Prayer for Healing, the liturgy of which I adapted for use back at my home church just a few weeks ago.



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