O holy Bertram, Ascetic of the Mercian woods, forsaking worldly wealth thou didst give thyself to God. Through fasting and prayer in a cave by the Manifold, thou didst acquire the riches of the age to come. Pray to Christ for us, that we too may be found worthy of his Kingdom.This time: Ilam, and plenty of photographs to share with you of the marvellous time I had on Saturday.- Tropar to St Bertram, tone 7
Long-time readers will know that I have a personal attachment to the spring and shrine of St Bertram in the village of Ilam. This shrine in the Anglican church of the Holy Cross somehow managed to survive the desecrations of holy places that took place in the centuries after the English reformation, and stands today a place of quiet pilgrimage for faithful Christians from various places. I made a private pilgrimage there on the day before my Baptism to get water to add to the font, and I have been back every year since then for the pan-Orthodox pilgrimage in August. This year had the highest turnout since I have been going, with about 80-90 pilgrims at the Liturgy, which was concelebrated by clergy from the Russian, Greek, Romanian, and Antiochian churches. I must say, as well, that I was very impressed by the decoration of the shrine, which was the most beautiful that I have seen it so far. The care and devotion that went into the preparation was obvious.
The Church of the Holy Cross
After the Liturgy, we took a break for a picnic lunch and some free time for fellowship and exploring the idyllic surroundings, encopmpassing Ilam Park, which is next door to the church. I revisited the spring near the river, from which I had taken the water for my baptism, only to be disappointed to find that it was dry.
Here are some photographs that I managed to take of the area and of some of the pilgrims spending time together.
After we had all eaten and caught up with each other, those who were physically able took the icon, which was in its new case, masterfully crafted of bulletproof glass and other materials by a parishioner of St Michael's Audley, and headed up the hill to St Bertram's spring, where we performed the lesser blessing of the waters.
Those who were not able to climb the hill to the spring visited St Bertram's cave beside the river, after which we gathered again at the church to close the pilgrimage with Great Vespers, before returning home. Not only was this a turning point for me for personal reasons but I also had the great privilege of sharing this special place with two good friends of mine. Another privilege was being asked to help choose some stones from the well for use at the consecration of a church next month. For those who are unfamiliar with the consecration of churches, (as it's hardly something that we see every day), the bishops assemble the Holy Table during the course of the service, nailing the top in place with specially forged nails, which they secure with wax mastic and hammer in with stones. I thought it quite fitting and very beautiful that the stones be taken from the holy spring and returned to there at next year's pilgrimage.
I always enjoy these pilgrimages and am keenly awaiting the Holywell pilgrimage to St Winefride's well in October. Perhaps some of you might be able to come.