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Friday 6 May - Landscapes that speak!

Today we went on pilgrimage, visiting three sites that hold a special place in Icelandic hearts: the Gullfoss Falls, the hot springs and geysers at Geysir, and Thingvellir, a rift valley in which Iceland’s Old Commonwealth was forged, where laws were made until the early nineteenth century and disputes settled.

Six words seem to me to embody the experience of a moving pilgrimage: four come from the land – earth, fire, air and water; the other two lie at the heart of what it means to be fully human, fully alive – the word and community. The land spoke all six words to us, resonating with the Word of God, especially in Genesis and in John’s Gospel (14:1-6), which was read at our communion service in the chapel at Thingvellir.

We travelled together in a single coach; our itinerary was carefully paced, while Teemu guided our reflections skillfully and unobtrusively.

Our first stop at Gullfoss brought us face to face with the tremendous power of water to contour the land, to give and renew life, to cleanse and purge; at times to snuff life out. The sharp air at Gullfoss and the Falls themselves recalled the opening verses of Genesis; the passage of the Israelites fleeing Egypt across the Sea of Reeds, their crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land, their weeping in exile by the rivers of Babylon, and our own baptism.

After an hour’s contemplation of Gullfoss, we stopped at Geysir, with its steaming hot springs, its spouting geyser and the scorched, sulphurous earth: all bear witness to the vast subterranean fire which bursts forth dramatically from time to time, destroying, searing … also creating and renewing. Teemu invited us to look inwards at our own internal fires which erupt in times of great distress, sometimes scarring our psyche, sometimes inspiring new beginnings.

Thingvellir was our last, longest stop. Here, in the bosom of a broad, fertile rift valley, earth, fire, air and water come together to beget life and to nurture a human community. For centuries from the earliest settlement, Iceland’s clans assembled in Thingvellir every year to deliberate the laws that regulated community life, to settle disputes about rights and obligations and offences against human well-being; and, no doubt, to recount the great sagas which embody the history and spirit of the Icelandic nation.

Our pilgrimage ended with our own SDE community crammed into an exquisite wooden chapel for a service of holy communion, first, to first listen to Jesus’s consoling words: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled … I am the way, the truth and the life’, next to exchange the gift of peace, and finally to be affirmed as one with and in Christ.

That was not all: an unusual post-script awaited our arrival in Skalholt: we watched as our chef gingerly placed sealed containers of dough into a newly-opened hot spring to bake in preparation for our silent day. As evening wore on, we left behind the sounds, sights and movement of our pilgrimage day and entered into the Great Silence.

Edward Warrington

Videos

Minutes of Mindfulness
Hear, Smith of Heavens - a medieval Iceland Hymn -sung at the beginning of the eucharist in Thingveliir church.

Baking Bread with the Energy of the Earth.

Watch as Bjarkke - the Skalholt chef prepares the baking of the bread for our Saturday Agape and evenng meal . (Please excuse the sound - it was very windy!)


Morning Prayer in Sk√°lholt church before leaving.

Photo: Susanna Eratuli 

Lehel and Marika at Gulfoss

Photo: Susanna Eratuli 

Penny and Peder at Geysir.


Photo: Susanna Eratuli

Sitting out the snowstorm at Thingvellir!

Photo: Susanna Eratuli


Squeezing into the beautiful √ěingvallakirkja - the small church of Thingvellir.

Photo: Susanna Eratul 

Bjarkke places the bread dough in the brand new hot spring!

Photo: Susanna Eratul 


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