I have a great affinity with the name Aidan. Aidan is the name of my Irish Godson; it was the name of the Theological college in Birkenhead that trained Anglican clergy from 1846-1970. Incidentally, the college is now continuing under the name St Mellitus and is based at Liverpool Cathedral. It is the place I trained for ordination from 2013-2015. The St Aidan cross on my stole is also a reminder of Aidan the Irish monk who travelled from Iona to Lindisfarne. King Oswald of Northumbria requested that Aidan be made bishop of the newly converted Northumbrians. Consecrated in 635, Aidan settled on Lindisfarne, where he established his church, monastery, and see near the royal stronghold of Bamburgh. St Bede wrote of Aidan:
“ Wherever on his way he saw any, either rich or poor, he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery of the faith; or if they were believers, he sought to strengthen them in their faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good work”
This week I am on retreat on Lindisfarne, Holy Island, as I fondly call it. I have been retreating here for the last three years. I find it a great place to rest and unwind, being cut off from the main land for up to twelve hours every day, getting up early to catch the sunrise and being close to the sea, it brings me closer to God. I often refer to Holy Island as a ‘thin place’, a term used by the Celts to describe a place where heaven and earth meet, a place we’re you are able to catch glimpses of the mystery of God. They can also be places were you discover things about yourself and God’s plan for your life. This is what happened to Cuthbert as he saw a dazzling shaft of light, or as the Celts beautifully describe it “fuinneog sa spear” “window in the sky”. As Cuthbert, saw the clouds momentarily part like a window in the sky, he caught a glimpse; a shaft of light, God’s plan was revealed to him and he new he had to train as a monk. Cuthbert eventually became the 6th Bishop of Lindisfarne after Aidan’s death.
So I encourage you today to discover your ‘Thin place or space’. To look out for “Funinneog sa spear” which might reveal God’s plans. Perhaps as you discover this place or space you may also take the opportunity to join us and the Bishop of Liverpool in reading Mark’s Gospel. This short but profound Gospel speaks with urgency about our need to discover God’s unconditional love and challenges us to respond. I end today’s contemplation with the prayer of St Aidan. Suaimhneas, (peace tranquillity to you) Sarah
Leave me alone with God as much as may be.
As the tide draws the waters close in upon the shore,
Make me an island, set apart,
alone with you, God, holy to you.
Then with the turning of the tide
prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,
the world that rushes in on me
till the waters come again and fold me back to you.