A Pilgrim's Perspective
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Scottish Cross is an annual pilgrimage across the Western Highlands that culminates in Iona Abbey on Easter Sunday. Here is a pilgrim's perspective written by Anna for the Iona community
It's a motley crew that disembarks as the ferry arrives on the Isle of Iona on Holy Saturday. Weather-worn and tired they may appear, but the Scottish Cross pilgrims' spirit is anything but dampened: after 8 days and 100 miles of hard walking across rugged Highland terrain, they have finally reached their destination.
The Scottish Cross Easter pilgrimage starts the day before Palm Sunday at two different points: one leg commences at the foot of Loch Lomond, the other in Fort William. A wooden cross is carried by each group and is the central focus of daily prayer, reflection and worship. It is the powerful symbol as well as physical reality of the cross that binds this disparate group of strangers and friends into a community of pilgrims. Even shared between three people the cross can be a burden – and a particularly challenging one when bogs, steep passes and over-flowing streams must be negotiated. But pilgrims support each other to cope with the terrain and weather, and the cross helps them to keep going: it invites us to contemplate Christ's death and resurrection, and the consequent rebirth we have all been offered.
Each day brings its own unforeseen adventures, toils and amusements but they hang on a daily rhythm of morning and evening prayer, as well as brief mid-morning and mid-afternoon reflections offered by individual pilgrims en route. Part of the beauty of these reflections is the way that walkers share and give of themselves so freely to briefly-known fellow pilgrims. This is community-building in action. It is also a diverse community, embracing Catholics, Anglicans, Quakers, Orthodox, and Jews; pilgrims from across Britain and overseas; and including a range of ages from 18 to 70!
The arrival on the Isle of Mull by both legs on Maundy Thursday sees a Eucharistic celebration over a shared meal. It is a powerful and poignant commemoration of the Last Supper, complete with a communal washing of feet that are indeed by this stage blistered, weary and in need of some hot water and soap! We journey onwards as a full group, with a Good Friday veneration service on the cliff-tops of Mull and a vigil service on Holy Saturday. The Easter Sunday service at the Abbey on Iona, which Scottish Crossers delight to join in, marks the end of our pilgrim journey. And just like century conversions from which Iona derives its renown, we too depart transformed and the 6th invigorated.