Sometimes we travel to discover new cultures and ways of being, but we neglect what can be closest to us.
A number of years ago, we had a church pilgrimage to Luss to see the celtic cross in the glebe there, and to remember St Kessog. St Kessog came from Ireland, and founded a monastery on the island of Inchtavannach near Luss. He introduced Christianity in the area, and died in 520AD. It is quite moving to realise this very early Christian influence in the area, and for me it adds to the feeling of being a sacred place. Loch Lomond feels like a place of retreat and of solace, a place with a history of prayer.
Today, I visited the island of Inchcailloch. To my shame, I had never been there before. Of the 22 islands in Loch lomond, it is the island nearest Balmaha. You can walk around it, it has a beach and ruined farm. But it also has an old graveyard and the remains of a church, where St Kentigerna is meant to gave been buried in 733AD. Inchcailloch means island of old women, or of nuns. It is certainly at the very least an ancient Christian site. It is a very beautiful and peaceful place.
My visit reminded me of the celtic Christian appreciation of nature, of the seasons and the tides, the moon and the sun. There is a deep appreciation of creation, of thin places and thresholds, of the importance of pilgrimage and blessing, even in the mundane things of daily life. The landscape around loch lomond, of hills and islands and quiet beaches and glens speaks of God’s creativity and glory.
In Psalm 19 it says ‘ the heavens declares the the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the work of His hands’. In many places on this earth, that is particularly felt.
The words of the ancient celtic blessing seems so appropriate:
May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind always be at your back May the sun shine warm upon your face May the rain fall soft upon your fields, And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Gracious God, thankyou for the early apostles and followers of Jesus, who took the gospel message to new lands, people like St Ninian and St Mungo, St Kessog and St Kentigerna. We are grateful for their resolution, even when travelling through hostile and difficult landscapes. May we remember their stories, and remember that so many places have sacred histories. Holy spirit, on our pilgrimage though life, may we be attentive to these places, and the very presence of God, and be filled with humility and praise, Amen.