Good and gracious God Grant to our eyes wide horizons Increase our vision to see Beyond the obvious and into the depths Let us walk ways that are new Where we do not know the destination Let us journey in joy and in hope.[i]
In the year 635, King Oswald of England invited Aidan, an Irish monk from Iona, Scotland, to come teach his people the way of God’s love. The king offered Aidan a gift, the choice of any piece of land in the kingdom of Northumbria for the site of his monastery. Aidan chose Lindisfarne, a tidal island two miles offshore in northeast England near the border of Scotland. Twice a day, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne shuts herself off from the mainland as the ocean tides swell, covering the mudflats and causeway.
Today, the two mile long paved road leading over to Lindisfarne is still covered by high tides twice a day. Warning signs caution drivers to check the tide tables before crossing. All over the village on the isle, shops post the tide tables to remind people to observe the time and keep from being stranded.
On this tidal island, in 635, Aidan built a monastery, the first buildings ever built on the island. From that location, he brought the love of God to the people of Oswald’s kingdom through acts of kindness, care for the poor and humble service to the people of the kingdom. The people of Northumbria loved Aidan and his small band of monks from the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. In Aidan and his followers, they saw the love of God made visible through practical acts of compassion for the needy.
In this simple story from the distant past lies hidden a present wonder. Low tide reveals it. Low tide. Twice a day, by action of the gravitational pull of the moon upon the sea, the waters recede from the coastlands, exposing marine life and treasures usually buried in saltwater. Only at low tide can a beachcomber or a pilgrim walk over to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne to discover these wonders.
Aidan chose well. He knew something basic about the human soul. Twice a day, when we are at low ebb, out of energy, run down, washed out, only then can we pass over to find our soul’s true rest. We climb a small hill on the eastern edge of Lindisfarne, sit down in the grass and soak in the extraordinary beauty of the island of light, looking out across the North Sea at the vastness and wonder of the sparkling waters. The next time you are feeling out of gas, run down, dried up, weary of life, step off the mainland, and journey across the mudflats at the low tide of your soul, make a pilgrimage over to the otherside, to the Holy Isle where you can sit in the grass, look out over the vastness of the ocean, and find refreshment for your soul.
[i] David Adam, “Wide Horizons”, from Island of Light (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 23. David Adam is Vicar of Lindisfarne and author of many books on Celtic spirituality.