Have you ever ever discovered your self on a visit with the flawed Coinneach? It occurred to me final Wednesday. I believed I used to be going to Harris with Coinneach Mòr, in a dependable, BBC automobile whose satnav would use RP English, in all probability even saying our vacation spot as Roe-dell. As a substitute, in a flagrant abuse of licence payment payers’ cash, I used to be issued with Coinneach Beag, ‘driving’ an computerized Yaris, and taking his good time about it.
We have been sure for St Clement’s church to do this which no Wee Free ever does in a spot of worship: take a look at artwork. I fretted all the best way there, and nearly welcomed the frequent violent stalling as a distraction. When your head retains coming into contact with the dashboard it’s laborious to consider anything – even heresy.
The exhibition was a visible exploration of the poem cycle by Orcadian George Mackay Brown, entitled ‘Tryst on Egilsay’, describing the loss of life of St Magnus. Sure, artwork AND saints all in at some point. However an Orcadian saint, whose story the late poet thought to be probably the most valuable in Orkney’s heritage.
It was so applicable to have this in Harris for plenty of causes. For one, it’s believed that the account of Magnus’s loss of life was preserved for posterity by one Hebridean eyewitness – Holdbodi, of the farming class, and constant ally of Magnus.
Magnus was assembly on Egilsay together with his cousin, Hakon, to debate which ones ought to rule Orkney. The previous introduced with him two boats and the corresponding variety of males, as had been agreed. A lot much less honourable, the latter introduced eight boats, full of followers. When Magnus noticed them strategy, he knew what his destiny can be.
It’s nearly unbearably transferring to learn the account, in Orkneyinga Saga, of Magnus’s steadfast religion within the face of such menace. As a substitute of fleeing, he went to church and prayed, forbidding his males to defend him.
After which, he bargained in a approach that each Christian hopes they’d too in the identical state of affairs. He didn’t beg to have his life spared. As a substitute, he requested Hakon to do something – even placing out his eyes – in need of homicide. ‘God is aware of that I feel extra of your soul than my very own life’, he instructed his cousin, and since this was true, he needed to spare Hakon the guilt of his blood.
He was persuasive, and would have gotten his approach, however for Hakon’s males. They mentioned that they needed a single ruler for Orkney and that, subsequently, one of many two earls should die. Thus, Magnus’s destiny was sealed, and he prayed forgiveness for the perpetrators earlier than being put to loss of life.
Hakon had opted for political energy and the loss of life of his soul; however Magnus selected the great portion.
It may appear unusual in a single strategy to be marking this Norse-Orcadian earl’s loss of life in a mediaeval church in Harris. However not when you consider it. St Clement’s was in all probability constructed a few centuries after the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, but it’s a part of God’s actual property. In that very church, I felt all method of hope was represented.
Gaelic tradition, so apparently subsumed by the political would possibly of the Vikings flowered when their age was finished. St Clement’s testifies to that, belonging because it does to that the majority Gaelic of eras in our historical past. A minority language, oppressed by the main language can nonetheless be resurgent; and, because the Norse instance exhibits, official standing doesn’t make any language the one in every of your coronary heart.
Magnus, although, and St Clement’s, and the individuals who go to there to learn of his martyrdom, converse the best hope of all into the world. Some might select political energy, progress and recognition right here on this life; however in case you are a Christian, you certainly want to establish with Magnus who, on the hour of his loss of life prayed for his buddies, but additionally his enemies, forgiving their sins in opposition to himself.
In the long run, it didn’t matter which Coinneach took me to Harris; I wanted to go as a way to be reminded of one thing. When even these you will have known as buddies hate you for Christ’s sake, it’s straightforward and pure to really feel bitter, however it’s higher to recollect the lesson of this mediaeval Orcadian Saint: their souls are value extra to Him than my life.
Hakon appeared to have walked away with all of the prizes – his life; the unique rights to the Earldom of Orkney; and even forgiveness from the person he had put to loss of life. However his cousin, in actual fact, was the winner, capable of discern which have been the true riches and, in full religion, to decide on Christ over in opposition to every little thing else.
We’ve, all of us, to reply for ourselves, however I hope I can proceed to say with Magnus, and with Job, ‘although He slay me, I’ll belief in Him’.
That may meet any deficiencies in myself, in my friendships, and in my journey by means of this world. Even when a part of it must be in a hybrid computerized pushed by the flawed Coinneach.