Experience on retreat echoes in the days and weeks following and I find myself tweaking aspects of my life in the light of my encounters with God and others over the few days. This is a picture of our Eucharist elements and Cuthbert’s island. Part of the liturgy was to tell this story from the life of Cuthbert:
Cuthbert was travelling south along the river Teviot, teaching and baptizing the people in the hill areas. He had a boy with him whom he sought to train in an understanding of God’s providence. “Do you think anyone has prepared your midday meal today?” he asked the boy. The boy said he knew of no friends or relatives on their route and did not expect provision from anyone. “Don’t worry, but seek first the kingdom of God and the Lord will provide for all your needs” Cuthbert told him. “I have been young, now I am old, but I have never seen God forsake those who do what is right”. Sometime later Cuthbert saw an eagle in the sky and said: “This is the eagle which the Lord has instructed to provide us with food today “Shortly the eagle settled on the river bank, and at Cuthbert’s bidding, the boy walked over to it and took away a large fish which the eagle had brought. Cuthbert said “Why did you not leave half of this for our fisherman to eat?” The boy returned half the fish to the eagle, they cooked their half of the fish in the company of some people who had a fire going, and shared their fish with them too. As the birds brought food to your people in the parched deserts, so you will bring food to our parched and hungry souls.
As we said the Lord’s prayer I commented that we were saying that prayer looking upon the place where Cuthbert would probably have prayed that prayer many times. Since I have come back I have been more conscious of being part of a communion of saints who pray the same prayers. I often use the liturgy of the Northumbria Community – I am a Companion – and value the biblically based yet value laden words. The rule of the Northumbria Community is availability and vulnerability and for me the offices I pray encapsulate those values. I don’t feel called to the life of a hermit as Cuthbert was but when I see the island it reminds me of the importance of having a place to pray where I can draw near to God. I have never found intercession easy but try to be led by the Holy Spirit who seems to highlight individuals or situations to me to pray for and sometimes that is in my place of prayer – a particular seat in our house but other times it is just part of whatever else I am doing. I told the story of the fish and the eagle because it reminds me of the interconnectedness of so many things and the importance of sharing what it is we do have and of seeking to bless others as God has blessed us.