..”today I begin”.. St Aidan monk of Iona, sent by St Columba to evangelise north-east England, & later Bishop of Lindisfarne, [ Holy Island ] always felt called back to his island home to begin again.. realising it was never again but always a first time.. & this morning each of us, beloved monastic disciples of St Columba & St Benedict, evangelisers in your own homes & workplaces, me in my cloister, teachers shepherds of gospel, follow in footsteps of St Aidan at this low-tide moment.. with covid, furloughing, self-isolation, lockdown & 118,000 deaths this is indeed a low-tide moment.. however, take heart, low tide lasts less than a minute before first small ripples of the sea herald the change of direction of pace & of power.. Ash Wednesday “today I begin“ to cross the causeway from the mainland of my usual daily life prayer & work in family, onto a Holy Island called Lent..
..”today I begin”.. pause for moment to allow each of us the space silence & moment in this sacrament of the present moment, in this less than a minute low tide moment, to hear & then to whisper those three words to Our Lord & to yourself.. “today I begin”..
“..now, now.. it is the Lord who speaks.. come back to me with all your heart” ; Lord have mercy “..begin on the soft milk of God..” [St Aidan] ;Christ have mercy “..turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness & compassion..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..go deeper.. three key stages in a deepening in discipleship Jesus shared with them then & now with us.. did you notice the order? Good works first, prayer second, fasting last.. high tide to low tide you might say.. “but when you give alms.. but when you pray.. but when you fast”.. Jesus gently invites them to go deeper than the measured mile, the conventional expectation of rank & file Judaism, of penny catechism Catholicism.. you are worth far more than that.. not house sparrows but majestic golden eagles.. “today I begin” to see myself differently, as disciples did in cornfields, you to bend down & take frond of seaweed.. to feel it smell it & breathe in the essence of Holy Spirit, to find sand on your living room carpet you have trodden in from your walk across the causeway.. a journey you will make now for the next 40 days & perhaps from then on for a lifetime?.. a low tide moment which is always different each day.. a moment to go deeper in thought in possibility in adventure & in intimacy of relationship with your divine companion.. can you imagine him relishing with utter joy & excitement the prospect of sharing time & real presence with you for the next 40 days?.. does divine life come any better he may ask? 2yrs ago I shared with you an extract from R4 Sunday Worship programme entitled “hold fast to wonder” I am drawn to share it with you again now as you listen to it not again but for the first time..2yrs on, 1500 tides on Holy Island since then, every tide every day in Lent a moment of change..” when I was living on Holy Island, I was visited by my friend who had two children who sat in the car watching separate films on their own tablets with earphones. I said would they like to explore the island & the sand dunes? They said “the island’s really boring. There’s nothing to do here. I’d rather stay in the car.” in fact everything for them seemed boring. “I’ll give you a challenge” I said “I wonder if you can get through the next two days without using the word boring & without looking at your tablet.” Their mum thought this was a great idea so somewhat reluctantly they took up the challenge. The later wrote this ; “we walked across the shallow water like the ancient pilgrims to the island even though the water was icy cold for my toes..we climbed the watch towers on the way, where they can rescue you if the tide comes in. I saw the way the sky joined the sea. I saw the swirl & then the heads of seals near the rocks & the honking noise they made, it was so cool. I walked round the whole island, climbed up to the castle. I ran across this huge beach & watched the tide come in, & join up in pools & then cover the sand. I wrote my name in the sand in the dunes about two metres high & watched the sun go down into the sea.” I saw their true characters emerge, scrubbed by the wind & infused with sun & salty air so that they shone. After two days they didn’t want to go home. They had learned to wonder.” ..a moment of change for two boys, the man who challenged them & for each of us now in our low tide moments.. will it be just another boring Lent?.. or will you, somewhat reluctantly, take up the challenge.. they left the island reformed deepened saying “the place was alive, so awesome I wanted to come back again” my prayer is that this will be your experience in 40 days time.. a Lent “alive awesome enough to want to come back again” “& today I begin..”