Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
Many of us connect particular months with
I know people for whom October each year
brings to mind a specific experience, for example, in a football
stadium. December may be united for us with where grew up.
August is the month when I usually spend
some quiet time at a monastery in Big Sur. I drive up almost every
year and August is the only month I have ever been there.
I was received as part of the monastic
community, though I live out here in the rest of the world, on
August 31 several years ago. I plan my trips up to Big Sur to be as
close as possible to the end of August.
August is not a particularly significant
month in the life of the community. Other months and other days have
taken on special meaning, but August is not very important in the
life of this monastery.
When I applied to become part of the
community I was told I could choose a day which meant something to
me. I could not think of a day which meant more than any other until
I was walking away. Then I realized there was a day, which was not
too far away, and which would honor someone I admired.
I chose August, and its last day, because it
was significant to me. August 31 is Saint Aidanís Day.
In the year 635 the Northumbrian king,
Oswald summoned Aidan from Iona, an island monastery off the coast
of what is now Scotland, to be bishop of his kingdom. Oswald granted
Aidan and his companions a small tidal island, Lindisfarne, on which
to found their monastery.
Aidan worked to establish the monastery on
Lindisfarne and spread Christian spiritual life throughout
Northumbria. He developed a strong reputation for charity and
dedication to poor people. Aidan traveled throughout the kingdom on
foot, he could converse with whoever he met.
After Aidanís death, monks at Lindisfarne
produced the illuminated manuscript of the Lindisfarne Gospels, a
masterpiece of early Medieval art now in the British Museum.
Lindisfarne is a tidal island. As the tide
flows out it is attached to Northumbria on a narrow isthmus and,
when the tide flows back in, it is an island.
The monastery Aidan founded at Lindisfarne
remained there for more than two hundred years despite the threat of
Monks from nearby Durham established a
permanent outpost on Lindisfarne after the Norman Conquest. The
border lands between England and Scotland became a more troubled
The ruins of the monastery have been
excavated and remain on the island.
Another connection which remains today is
Lindisfarne Mead. The belief was, if the soul was in Godís keeping,
the body must be fortified with Lindisfarne Mead. The more recent
production of Lindisfarne Mead began in 1962.
The mead produced on Lindisfarne is a
fortified honey alcohol drink made exclusively in Saint Aidanís
Winery on the island. In addition to the fermented honey in most
mead, Lindisfarne Mead is also vatted with fermented grape juice,
natural well water, and is fortified with fine spirit.
I am not sure mead is the first drink I
would choose during the summer days of August, but Lindisfarne is my
Like the monastery in Big Sur, the beauty of
the island of Lindisfarne draws my mind back to it. What it must
have been like for Aidan, almost fourteen hundred years ago, to
arrive on the island for the first time. I can imagine him walking
through the kingdom and hearing his conversations about spiritual
I look forward to when we can return to
places where we enjoy sharing a beer and talking and listening.
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life
mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft
brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg has served as
an assistant district attorney and an associate university
professor. Gregís website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com,
and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel