Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sacred disorientation

Driving on the left side seems to come naturally to me! I say this based on the experience of having successfully driven the 5 miles from the airport to our hotel in Edinburgh. The fact of sitting in the "passenger seat" to drive seems to reduce the disorientation.
To accomplish the goal of a pilgrimage one must first get lost. Getting lost on a pilgrimage is the physical equivalent to what happens when we say "the body of Christ" about a circle of bread. It dislocates one's sense of reality, stimulates distrust of the obvious, and requires that one depend upon the kindness of strangers. When there is no center, everything is edge. When everything is edge, there is no alternative to falling.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Proverbs 30:30

From the Church of England's on-line "Daily Office of Morning Prayer": "Three things are stately in their stride; four are stately in their gait: the lion, which is mightiest among wild animals and does not turn back before any; the strutting rooster; the he-goat; and a king among his people."

    Abba Jonathan says: "cultivate a stately gait I did, until John the Dwarf told me like a rooster I walked, so give up on that I did, but better a rooster than a he-goat, right?"

Monday, August 26, 2013

A PILGRIMAGE differs from a VACATION the same way ACTION differs from MOTION,  a WORDS differs from NOISE, and GRACE differs from LUCK.  In the end, life itself is seen to be a pilgrimage, or, rather, it is either a pilgrimage toward some ultimate goal, or else a vacation from oblivion. Come to think of it, is not the cosmic multiverse itself “on pilgrimage”, expanding toward ???
Our life is either a word addressed in darkness to an unseen listener, or it is so much noise, percussion with no beat, dancing with no feet…   It is the pilgrim’s task to discover.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Lake Isle of Inisfree #2

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,

      And live alone in the bee-loud glade.


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

      And evening full of the linnet's wings.


I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,

      I hear it in the deep heart's core.

William Butler Yeats

When I read this poem  it evokes all my associations with the Delaware River, childhood, family, and that primal awareness of the world as somehow sacramental. When I read it I am once fishing in a 
boat with my sons when they were younger; or with my father, 
when I myself was young.

Speaking of my father, it so happens that he died on this day, 
August 21, in 1981. I was with him, and few moments before 
he died, he roused himself from a deep coma and cried out,
 “Jonathan! The boatman!”

And now, when I read of “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore,” I am once again in a boat with him, and he is rowing while my sister and I fish, lines trailing out behind.

“I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013


The Bible likes mountains, rivers, and deserts, but makes few references to islands.  As it happens, the Hebrew word for “coastland” appears to be the same as for “island,” which suggests that the ancient Israelites were not sailors, or even beach-goers.   Many biblical passages suggest that they were afraid of the ocean. Does the Bible say anything about an Israelite navy? No wonder they had little interest in islands.
Other than a few more passing references in the Hebrew Scriptures and in Acts, the most significant biblical island is the Isle of Patmos, where the Book of Revelation was composed. A quick reference to Wikipedia confirms my recollection that Patmos, one of the multitude of Aegean islands, was used as a penal colony by the Romans, particularly for the confinement of political prisoners. The island itself does not appear anywhere in the narrative, however, except to say, in Revelation 16:20, that “every island fled away” when the seventh angel poured out his bowl of wrath.
There is a fine monastery on Patmos, established in 1088 by a fellow named Christodoulos, known to the Orthodox Church as “The Wonderworker.”
                                                                     Holy Island
So what if the Bible isn’t interested in islands? I will take Christadoulos as my patron, along with island-hopping Irish monks like Aiden and Cuthbert, early residents of Holy Island, and having located myself in a place with water on all four sides, wait to see what happens. 


                      Abba Jonathan says: “An island you seek? To Coney Island
                                                                     I once went. Or was that a hot dog?"

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Except that, for me, there has always been an island.
Well, almost always. From the time I was six my family spent the summer on an island in the Delaware River. It was there that I learned to “walk in a sacred manner”, as Black Elk wrote. In later years I was drawn to Christian sacramentalism because the Eucharist reminded me of the Island. It still does.

In a little more than a week Nancy and I will make another attempt to begin the pilgrimage to Britain that was precluded last summer by the need for Nancy to have gall bladder surgery. 

As before, our principle destination will be the Holy Island of Lindesfarne, on the northeast coast of England near the Scottish border. We will also visit our extended family in Duns, Scotland, and the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk. There are parish churches and cathedrals I wish to visit, but this journey is basically a pilgrimage to an island, a Return to a Place I Have Never Been. 
If you have a history with such islands, or would like to have one, you are welcome to read the chronicle I plan to keep on my blog,