Last evening after the welcome dinner for the Writing on the Wild Edges of the World Celtic pilgrimage our host Christine Valters Paintner left us with this question to ponder, “Why are you here this week?” I drifted off to fitful sleep with that on my heart and mind.
Now the Spirit stirs me from leaden, jet-lagged slumber forcing my flight from the warm down comforter out into the night chill. Without questioning why, I obey some deep subliminal prompt to slip the elements into my jacket pocket as I quietly exit my room at Kilmurvey House.
Diffuse light from the cloud obscured full moon illuminates the gray shale footpath beneath my feet. I wander the trails a while praying softly before I realize the Spirit is calling me up the hill to the ruins of Dun Aenghus, an ancient stone fortress. Halfway up the hill I encounter a locked gate so I scramble over the creaking iron stile. Startled blackbirds rustle the bushes and call out in alarm. Cold, misty rain on my face forces me to draw the hood of my rain jacket close as I silently climb the rocky path, a solitary monk processing to matins. Lights of distant farmhouses flicker like candles in this vast outdoor cathedral which I share with God’s other creatures of the night.
The primitive stronghold is empty and quiet as I approach, tourist chatter gone with the ferry back to the chaos of the mainland. Ocean winds whisper as I duck under the gateway lintel stone and ramble the grounds praying. The North Atlantic crashing far below beckons me cautiously toward the dark cliff edge. Violent, luminescent waves slowly but steadily carrying away bits of Ireland that will wash up on distant sandy beaches someday as did the Celtic saints in their coracles centuries ago. Thrusting chilled hands into my pockets for warmth I finger the elements as Christine’s question haunts again, “Why are you here this week?”
The Spirit whispers a cryptic answer within my heart, “Viaticum, sustenance for the journey that I am calling you to.” Retreating from the precipice I make my way in the dim light to a waist high, flattop boulder. Kneeling, I withdraw the elements, lift them and pray, “Help me, O Lord, to grasp the significance of Your wonderful works and remember Your many acts of faithful love.” This is indeed a thin place, a land where there is only a faint veil between heaven and earth. The presence of that great cloud of witnesses that has gone before me in this land is palpable. They are here worshipping with me tonight in this cosmic, open air cathedral. Together we lift the bread, give thanks, break it, and recall our Lord’s words in prayer, “This is My body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way we raise the cup praying, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me”, and drain it to the dregs.
We worship together at the Creator’s stone altar until the eastern sky glimmers pink and orange then I make my way back down the hill to Kilmurvey House in time for hot coffee and a full Irish breakfast. I feel this glorious morning is but a portent of the wonderful adventure ahead as we explore writing on the wild edges of the world.