Cuddy’s Isle

Cuddy’s Isle (St Cuthbert’s Isle) on Lindisfarne, Northumbria. This photograph was taken by my friend Helen Gheorghiu-Gould earlier this week. She is currently having sabbatical time and this visit is part of her time away from her ministry. It is a time of reflection, prayer, rest and opening her heart to God’s possibilities for her.

The photograph took me back to the many visits and associations I have had over the years and stirred the heart-strings both of memory and of my halting spiritual pilgrimage. It has always been, for me, a place of encounter with God where He has guided me with love.

Holy Island (Lindisfarne) is a deeply special place for the story of Christianity in our land. It was to here that St. Aidan came from Iona to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ for His people. Here St. Aidan trained up twelve Saxon boys, including four brothers, to spread the Good News of Jesus. It was here, the day after Aidan’s soul was taken up to heaven that a boy named Cuthbert came to dedicate his life to God after first testing his vocation at the Abbey in Melrose.

When Cuthbert was called to be a great leader of the church and weighed down by the many tasks he undertook, he escaped to his special meeting place with God. As Lindisfarne became (and becomes) an island twice a day, so the little island known as Cuddy’s isle is the same. Here Cuthbert crossed before the tide cut him off and left him to simply be with God.

Here’s a poem I’ve just written inspired by Helen’s photograph and the thoughts it has stirred.

An Island

There is an island
made holy by the prayers and tears of saints.
A holy, set-aside place where souls in search of God
find him waiting.

It is a thin place
where earth touches heaven
and barriers are paper-thin:
tissue hiding nothing,
darkness transparent,
light warmly radiant.

I have been there,
down the rough path
past the church to a bend in the road
where expectancy parts the air.
The sea drifts to shore,
benign and welcoming
or pushing waves to the limit of its power.

Go there.
It beckons and seeks you.
Clamber and scramble the rocks of your desire.
You have a meeting, a moment, an arrangement.
God waits and stretches out his hand in welcome,
shelters safe and holds.

You are there
at the place of speaking,
listening,
being still.

Even as the wind swirls and chills,
you are warm.

And this place?
Cuddy’s Isle of Lindisfarne.
Or perhaps…
your heart.

[Mr G. 1st July 2021]

9 thoughts on “Cuddy’s Isle

  1. I’m sorry, what do you mean he escaped? He escaped from his many tasks that he did for the church to be with God? You don’t need God to say it’s ok to take a break in order to better serve God, do you? I thought there was some free will involved…?

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    1. I think ‘escaped’ here means that he took an opportunity to have a personal time with God in the midst of the hurly burly of a busy monastery. He would always be serving God but he, like many of us, needed to re-charge our batteries to serve God better – but perhaps alongside that is our personal desire to be alone with God. That’s using our free will.

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      1. Thank you for replying to me. If you don’t mind me asking, do you think he could have still served God if he wasn’t just taking a break from the church? I mean if he had always stayed on Cuddy?

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      2. Hello Mr. G, I guess she’s still planning a retreat and I’m not sure where at this point, but much inspired by your post. Thank you as well.

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  2. btw, I didn’t mean that like a smart ass question. I want to know more about the pushing of ministry. I realize everyone does it, not just “saints” but the wandering in order to spread the message, the seed… it is difficult to do in the tech age, with all the combatting messages and bots that make us feel heard or “liked” when in fact nothing is listening at all. So on Cuddy away from the world in sanctuary, what does God say? What words can be replenished that you found within, like Jesus said, it’s not him, he is already inside you, does not mean him. It’s the way he speaks of… but why spread the message?

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  3. I mean, why the “good news?” for real? Why do you feel compelled to spread the burden of the message? And then take retreat?
    Anyhow, if you have no answers for me, that’s a-ok. I’m mostly going on rhetorical. I think it’s healthy for prayer, meditation and retreat to face such koans.
    Thank you for your forum.

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  4. It’s less about words. More about silence. Like two friends, lovers, sitting in comfortable silence. As Jesus called his disciples away to a quiet place after he sent them out to tell people about him. God simply wants to spend time with us. Sharing love with us. THat’s at the heart of everything God does.
    Withdrawing for a short while to redress the balance between active and passive, drawing breath. It’s allowing for stillness to counterbalance the busyness. Whether we’re religious or not, we all need this if we are to discover wholeness. That’s my take on it.

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