What drove my desire to travel to Iona Scotland on pilgrimage for a week? I was seeking the place of my resurrection.
This is the season of resurrection, a season of surprises and life transformations. Leaving to go to Iona Easter week, I was driven to journey beyond the usual Easter experience to something grander that might help me settle things in my own heart and mind.
As I looked around me, I had been feeling things were not quite right for a while. My spiritual radar told me that what was missing could be found with one foot in the past and another in the future, so Iona felt like a perfect place to go. This is something I have been exploring for the last couple years and Iona was one more step on the journey.
Part of my past is I am Irish and have spent many hours curled up with a pot of tea while reading books on Celtic culture and faith. One thing you learn early on is lots of things come under the umbrella of “celtic” but one thing that came up over and over again was Iona.
Iona is an island off the coast of Oban in Scotland. It is traditionally embraced as the place where Celtic Christianity came to this part of Scotland and the name most assosicated with its spread is St Columba.
But, Columba didn’t bring Christainity to Scotland, that credit goes to St Ninian. But saddly Ninian’s work to bring the faith to Scotland was extinuguished by tribal wars. Columba, who had royal blood found doors opened for this new start for Christianity as he and his monks spread the faith, Columba came to Iona on the eve of Pentecost 563 (1450 years ago). Building a small church and bee-hive mud and wattle cells, they began a movement that lives today. High Crosses depicting the faith, along with beautiful celtic design stood next to what was a small church. Monks prayed, copied manuscrripts, farmed, raised animals and taught the faith. As they were trained, they were sent out to spread the word of God.
Shortly before his death, Columba wrote this about Iona: “Unto this place small and mean thought it be, great homage shall yet be paid, not only by the king and peole of the Scots, but by the rulers of foreign and barbarous antions and their subjects. In great veneration too it shall be held by holy men of other churches.”
History tells us that Iona was active until the continued assaults of the Vikings brought that to an end with the murder of 68 monks in 805. The community decided to go to Ireland and a new base was estalished at Kells (scholars believe the Book of Kells was started on Iona and taken to Kells for safekeeping).
But Iona is a magical place and while abandon for a while, it did not stay that way. Certainly the sheer beauty of Iona drew people back then as it does now. And it was the beauty and history that drew me.