St Columba’s Bay. Impossible love.

I don’t know what to write today. It is all too immediate, too close to me still, and I lack any sense of perspective.

It’s been a beautiful, sunny day. I finally got to St Columba’s Bay – all by myself, after a few hours of wandering about, losing my way every five minutes, then finding it again. I had a lot of time to think about St Columba, about St Cuthbert and St Ninian – all the saints who have taken over my life. I had time to pray, and time ask the questions that grew in me as I walked these sacred hills.

There is a lot in them that speaks to me. Their need to always leave behind what one has built, the fear to allow anything of this world embrace you, and encapsulate you, their obsession with pilgrimages with no destination. I thought, what can constitute a destination? When are we home? What does it mean to be home?

Their home was Christ, and everything else was an idol. Getting home meant overcoming death, entering the life which is Christ, and becoming one with Him. Home meant a transformation of the person who arrived there – not a place of rest, not a place of comfort; in fact, not a place at all. Home is Christ Himself, and they denied everything, everyone and their own earthly selves in order to get to Him and become one with Him.

How is that love for Christ even possible? These saints were made of the same flesh and blood, the same bones and skin, feelings and emotions as I am. What made their love so unearthly? What gave them this holy, wonderful madness? What sort of fire melted their hearts? If only I could light it myself, if only I had the love to at least begin this pilgrimage…

13 responses

  • Dearest Father, for all the miles that separate us, you have become a presence in our life. Your last Mull entries are so inspired and inspiring. I just want to reassure you of our love and prayers and that we shall start to commemorate you every week when we prepare prosforo for Holy Liturgy. May God bless you!

    • Thank you so much for this, may you be blessed a hundred time over for your love. I need prayer to keep going; one day, when it’s all over, I shall tell you all how difficult it actually was. Until then, please continue to pray and please continue to spread the news in the parish and among friends – the monastery needs practical, financial support. This is where we are, this is the stage of our growth. One day, we shall outgrow it and focus on other things. May we all be blessed. Please thank everyone for their prayers.

  • Father, your post reminds me why I was drawn to the stories of the saints of the islands even before I came to the Church. The stories of these saints also speak to the deep longings in my self and the Love that underpins my faith.

    • I envy you, dear Phoebe. I had not heard about the Celtic Saints until they took over my life, and then I had to learn. In some ways, it’s easier to recognise signs along the way, to confirm that you are going in the right direction (like what you are describing); for other people, God seems to always keep us in the dark, and our only option is to trust and follow Him. The temptation of those on the second path is that we have to permanently choose between our will (and need to understand, to see signs, to have confirmations about our path) and the silent, unknown, seemingly implacable will of God.

      • I love this description. God does not keep me entirely in the dark – sometimes He gives me those signposts. But then I have also had to wander years in the darkness, wondering and only trusting against all that seemed to be going on. It must take great courage to always be so – I suppose God gives us all what we need. Thank God for that. My prayers are ever with you – and please know you are a great encouragement to so many. God be with you.

  • Dear Father

    Listening to you with my heart and soul.

    My eyes transporting me into the unique perspective of the photograph you have shared of the stones washed up on the shore of St Columba’s Bay, each stone different, each stone unique.

    An altar to God must not, the Bible says, be built with bricks, but must be built with stones. Why? Because every brick is just the same as the next, they are all interchangeable. Bricks, too, are made by man, not God.

    Stones, on the other hand, are each individually and utterly unique — and created by God.

    They sit silent; in the rain, in the sun, in the heat, in the cold, no choice have they as they are cast upon the shore, pulled back out to sea, all at the whim of God and His Nature.

    Just as God is unique, so is every human being unique, by God’s design, just as is every stone.

    Stones are God’s natural reminders that each of us was created by Him with a unique purpose.

    And, though you are now “on a tiny island, in a small tent, in the middle of nowhere, where humanity thought the world ended and nothingness began,” you are also on a naturally-created altar to God, with the Saints, surrendering choice, offering all of your unique self, all of your unique purpose, “to Christ, to the Resurrection, to the Life to come.”

    Dear Father, my prayers are yours.

    • Dear Clementine, that is a beautiful thought, thank you for sharing it. Iona is very much like an Altar, indeed; it is also very much like a big, holy relic in the middle of the ocean – there is no need to identify the relics of each saint; they are all here, somewhere, in body and spirit, and their presence turns Iona itself in a living, breathing relic. I am so immensely grateful for these days; I am so immensely grateful. I trust my prayers for the monastery will have been heard, as well; I need help, I need a lot of help to get the monastery started.

  • Dear Father,
    Can you not see that you have the wonderful madness as the saint of whom you speak, for you have left homeland and family to be with us and our saints. The fire of Christ burns brightly within you dear Father and you have begun your pilgrimage.

    • Dear Bill, that is a dangerous thing for you to say, and an even more dangerous thing for me to even consider. Yes, there are external similarities between the lives of these saints and the chaos that is my life, but on the inside, I have nothing in common with their holiness and love for Christ. I am empty and overcome by sin; even when I pray to these saints, I feel I’m throwing dirt in their faces.

      Dear Bill, I’m just a monk, fundraising to build a monastery for us all. Let’s keep things simple and humble – that is the only certain path. Please keep me and the monastery in your prayers. May we all be blessed.

  • Let me offer some meandering words and ask you to indicate whether or not I am .going away from your sharing with convictions that are truthful.


    Your meditations are sooo consistent. They wonderfully hammer me, press upon me from within and without, with the unwavering “now” and “yes.” I am encouraged to let go of measuring. To let go of progress. To receive what I already possess and be who I already am and receive all and give all for all is Christ.

    What beginning point is there but Christ? What mid=point is there but Christ? What destination is there but Christ? All is in the present. All is being present and all being is present. What Way is there but presence in the presence of Christ – as fully honest just as I am, open, undefended, and available for Him to take and give and rearrange and heal – and the willingness to live in full agreement. All we seek we already possess – Christ. All we are to become we already are – Christ.

    • Dear Fr Thomas, I’m in no way the right person to comment on your notes; the only person to direct you is your spiritual father, entrust your soul to no one else. I’d only say that the last two sentences sound suspicious to me; the way to turn them into proper Orthodox theology would be to insert ‘potentially’ in them: ‘All we seek we already potentially possess – Christ. All we are to become we already are potentially – Christ.’ Our humanity is already perfect in Christ, because of His perfect humanity; and yet, each of us has to personally find the way to share this perfect humanity. We are not automatically made perfect by Christ, He is not a Saviour by force; His salvation is offered in freedom, and we are to accept it in freedom. I’m not al all convinced I explained this clearly; please get back to my initial thought – the only safe person to ask these things is your spiritual father. Please pray for me and the monastery, father.

      • The addition of the word “potential” is very helpful. Struggling to put things into words in the company of fellow pilgrims is one of the ways salvation is being worked out in my life. I consider you a new and wonderful part of that conversation.

  • Dear Father, More to say but not right to do so at this time and detract from your spiritually uplifting blog. Be assured that you and Kilninian Monastery are ever in our prayers.

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