Thought for the Day by Nigel Greenwood (St Chad’s)
Today’s reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans is headed ‘Life through the Spirit’, and what could be more appropriate for the day when we commemorate the life of Columba, who founded the abbey on Iona ?
Born in Ireland during AD 521 and also known as Colmcille, he travelled with twelve companions using a wicker ‘currach’ to Scotland in AD 563 where he remained until his death in AD 597. Columba was credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland and was buried in the abbey which he founded.
Having spent a few days on Mull and gazing across the sea with an increasing sense of anticipation, I shall never forget setting foot on Iona for the first time. The intensity of the atmosphere was so powerful that it felt like I could stretch out a hand and grasp the spirituality. Over the next few days I walked the length and breadth of the island, but the highlight was an afternoon wandering around the rocks on St Columba’s Bay where it is believed Columba and his companions had landed so long ago. The sense of being on Holy Ground was overwhelming as I was haunted by words of the hymn “Be still, for the presence of the Lord is here”.
Everyone who has visited Iona must surely be conscious of the remoteness, but for me it was reinforced on another occasion when stormy weather led to cancellation of the ferry for a couple of days and I was stranded beyond my planned time there – as the strong sense of isolation simply added to the overwhelming spiritual presence.
So much of Iona is summed up in this Prayer of St Columba:
Let me bless Almighty God,
whose power extends over sea and land, whose angels watch over all.
Let me study sacred books to calm my soul:
I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven’s gates.
Let me do my daily work,
gathering seaweed, catching fish, giving food to the poor.
Let me say my daily prayers,
sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet, always thanking God.
Delightful it is to live on a peaceful isle,
in a quiet cell, serving the King of kings.
This video link conveys something of the Iona landscape and atmosphere: