Lindisfarne, or Holy Island has been a place of Christian worship since the 6th century. It is the taproot which anchors the massive tree of Celtic Spirituality into the soil of Northumberland.
In the NC ethos, Lindisfarne is the Upper Spring, and the Mother House (located inland from Lindisfarne near the village of Hazon) is the Nether Spring, both of which were given by God in the midst of this spiritually dry land ( see Judges 1:14)
Google it and you will see haunting images of the ruined priory, of the castle which stands on an impossibly steep outcrop of rock jutting into the North Sea, and images of the causeway, to this day, still a pilgrim’s path which when covered, transforms the island from a busy tourist village, to serene place of quiet power.
We were able to experience both phases of life on Holy Island: The Ebb and the Flow.
The Ebb: the intimate isolation where one is left, almost alone, to wander the quiet streets, stand on a bluff overlooking the hermitage on tiny Cuthbert’s Island where a cross still marks the place where he spent countless hours in prayer and study, to answer the call of the lonely bell, beckoning one to join with a handful of other pilgrims in St. Mary’s for evening prayer. To listen to the score of different bird calls, unfettered by the sound of traffic or crowds. In the morning, strolling the beach wrapped in the downy cold of a thick, cloying fog ; no sound but the lapping waves.
The Flow: like a flock of birds descending with the parting fog, the first ranks of day visitors round the corner from the parking lot, breaking the silence with laughter and happy chatter, delivery trucks appear magically, madly unloading their wares as their customers arrive right on their heels. A long stream of bright colors can now be seen seen dotting the path to the castle. Where moments ago, there were only muted grays and brown; a canvas of isolation, now there are splashes of red and green and blue umbrellas, yellow rain slickers and dark blues jackets, dropped by a careless painter all the way to the horizon.
This reflects one of the key values of the NC (or any decently balanced Christian life for that matter) : Monestary and Mission, Ebb and Flow, times of work, and times of rest. We don’t balance these well in the west. But God gives us clues in places like Lindisarne . . . If we will see.
As a “last experience” on Holy Island, we arranged to meet some other NC friends at a pub called The Crown and Anchor. We had never met Jo and Emma in person before, but we had shared quite a lot of life together through the NC Internet Forum.
We grabbed a table for six and I stepped back outside to watch for Jo and Emma. Now at this point, I already had a lot reflect on, but I was thinking about how I had failed to find Andy Raine while on the island.
Andy is one of the original founders of the NC and something of a legendary figure; “Crazy as a box of frogs” as one NC member put it. Andy dances the daily offices rather than just speaking or singing them. Andy is sort of a . . . Mary Poppins crossed with William Wallace meets Willy Wonka and Conann the Barbarian sort of character, and I was told that while on the Island, I should by all means, “knock him up” (which means something ENTIRELY different in the UK . . .so relax.) For those of you familiar with the G.K. Chesterton book, “Manalive”, the character Innocent Smith bears a good likeness.
I was told that he and his family live at the center of the village in a cottage called “settled” (almost all the homes on Lindisfarne have names). On two, sepeate walks around the village I looked for “settled” but could not find it.
Now, as I stood outside the Crown and Anchor, beginning to embrace the idea that Andy and I were not meant to meet on this trip, a tall man with
an explosion of curly dark hair, wearing duck hunter’s garb and carrying a parcel, emerged from behind a garden wall. I recognized him from YouTube videos I had seen of him telling the NC story.
In the split second it took for me to recognize him, and begin evaluating whether I should NOW go introduce myself ( he was clearly in the middle of an errand, and I was waiting for Jo and Emma) he had turned to look right at me, and saw that I was looking at him.
He stopped, and a smiling expression of recognition crossed his face, a look like he was expecting me. Now I HAD to advance and introduce myself.
“Andy?” I asked.
“Yes.” He smiled.
I extended my hand as I stepped toward him, “I’m Dan Hazen, a friend of the NC and I just wanted to say ‘hello’.”
“I knew it when I saw you!” he said, “I was told to watch for a bloke yesterday, and I just thought, ‘oh well we missed each other’ . . .but as soon as I saw you, I knew you were him.”
I guess we were supposed to meet after all . . .
….to be continued.