GREAT BRITAIN OF MY HEART
Iona Island, Scotland
Orthodox pilgrims praying
on the beach of St Columba’s Bay on Iona Island, Scotland
This is we, the pilgrims of last summer, praying on the beach of St Columba’s Bay on Iona. When I close my eyes and think back to 2015, this is the image that captures it best: a handful of people, travelling huge distances to be here and pray for a while. I love the silence of it, the strangeness of it, I love how absorbed by prayer we were and how completely unaware of being photographed.
We took the difficult path to the Bay that morning. We had woken up very early and celebrated the Liturgy in the small chapel we improvised in the dining room. We crossed by ferry from Mull to Iona, and set out on a three hour-walk through the harsh, unpopulated heights of the island. We stopped several times to rest and take in the wild beauty of this tiny piece of earth surrounded by water. There was time to pray together, and there was time to pray alone.
We must have spent an hour or even more at the Bay. We had carried an icon of the Celtic Saints with us, which we placed it on a stone and prayed. None of us knew we were being photographed. We were simply praying, each of us trying to bring light into the story of our own life, yet somehow together.
Thank you all who have joined me last summer, and thank you all who have joined me for the longer, still ongoing pilgrimage of founding this monastery. It is not an easy walk. It sometimes gets too difficult, and we must stop for a while and pray. We are all coming from our own separate stories, yet this pilgrimage somehow connects us and makes us one.
And, as we struggle and we fall, as we take one step forward and one backwards, as we intertwine our life stories with the story of this monastery – unknown to us, it all enters God’s eternal memory, like a large, silent photograph which captures it all, so that nothing is lost and nothing is wasted.