Today was a day devoted to the sea – as is often the case when living on an island. In the morning our intrepid scout, Andrew Field, led us on a walk to the north end of the island where we explored two beaches and the incredible rocky outcroppings that define Iona’s coastline. In the afternoon, we boarded a small boat for the eight-mile trip to Staffa, an island famous for its dramatic basalt columns, sea caves, and bird life – especially puffins!
We pilgrims marvel in the beauties of God’s creation here (not least of which has been three sunny days in a row!) and in God’s beneficent invitation to visit and enjoy them. We begin to understand even more deeply a central truth of Celtic Christianity: that God’s work of creation – including humanity – is good; and that we are not irredeemably banished from the Garden of Eden. Rather, Eden, the “garden of our beginnings,” is buried within our human memory; it is the “garden of our beginnings” to which we constantly strive to return. Our visit to Iona gives us a glimpse of that long-ago garden, at the same time as it reminds us that we continue to live in it, as long as we have eyes to see the beauties of the world about us.
Still, our pilgrimage of listening for the heartbeat of God does not end with sight or even with gratitude. Instead, it impels us to think about how to see the beauties of creation in the concrete neighborhoods of Philadelphia and in the neediest and most broken of people; and it impels us to action to liberate humankind from evil, that we may be the ladder that pierces the thin veil that connects earth and heaven. – Catherine Kerrison