Day 36/Tuesday of Holy Week: A Rock of Refuge

Rock of Refuge © Jan L. Richardson (click image to enlarge)

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
—Psalm 71.3

From a lectionary reading for Tuesday of Holy Week: Psalm 71.1-14

Reflection for Tuesday, April 3 (Day 36 of Lent)

Pondering this passage and this image, I keep thinking of Skellig Michael. A small, peaked rock of an island off the coast of Ireland, Skellig Michael was home to a small community of monks in the Middle Ages. According to legend, the monastery was founded by Saint Fionan in the sixth century. In a stark landscape that afforded few level surfaces, the monks managed to build six stone cells (living quarters) constructed in the “beehive” style distinctive to Celtic monasteries, along with two oratories (places for prayer) and a tiny hermitage on a peak whose location would have made getting there an arduous pilgrimage in itself. It’s thought that a monastic community remained on the island until the twelfth or thirteenth century.

The monks of Skellig Michael devoted themselves to a way of life in which they embodied the words of the psalmist who, in today’s reading, proclaims, “My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long” (v. 8). I imagine that on that craggy rock where they kept a rhythm of personal and communal prayer throughout the day and night, the monks felt a particular connection with this psalm and its imagery of the rock of refuge that the psalmist finds in God. Like the desert fathers and mothers of the early church who served as models and sources of inspiration for these monks, the brothers surely must have found that their home on Skellig Michael was not a place of escape from spiritual struggle but a space where they could both wrestle with God and rest in the God who delivered them and provided shelter and strength for their souls.

On this Lenten day, where do you find the solid ground that God provides? How do you seek the refuge, solace, and shelter that God offers you—not as a perpetual escape from the world but as a place of safety where you can receive the strength and sustenance that will enable you to engage the world in the ways God needs you to engage it?

Blessing of Refuge

That I may flee to you
not to escape forever
from the world
that you have created,
the world that you
call beloved

but that in your refuge
I will find
your presence
to strengthen me
your courage
to sustain me
your grace
to encompass me
as I go
where you would
have me go.

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12 Responses to “Day 36/Tuesday of Holy Week: A Rock of Refuge”

  1. Kellyann Says:

    I like the Celtic flavor of this blessing.

    As someone whose spirituality is about soil and food, I wonder how the monks of Skellig Michael fed themselves. Was there enough soil to grow food, enough grass to graze goats? Or did they import everything they ate? I nosed around and found this: “Terraces around the huts and oratories were used to grow vegetables, which along with fish from the ocean and bird’s eggs were the main food supply of the monks.” From

    Thank you, Jan, for this meditation. I am reminded of your post for Lent Day 30, and the image of the Christian pilgrimage as an inch long and miles deep.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thanks, Kellyann! Yes—the monks evidently did a remarkable job of creating terrace gardens that coaxed sustenance from the island (“out of the earth,” to borrow a good phrase!). Thanks for the link. Many blessings to you in this Holy Week and beyond.

  2. susan Strouse Says:

    Jan, will you be publishing these Lent reflections as a book? I hope so!

  3. Elizabeth Nordquist Says:

    Sun Dancing is the name of a powerful book by Geoffrey Moorhouse (1999) that is half novella, and half history about Skellig Michael and what happens there.

    The image and the reflection are complelling and sustaining, Jan. Once again, deep thanks.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Elizabeth! I have had this book on my mental list for a long time—thanks for reminding me of it & for the recommendation. Blessings to you in this Holy Week.

  4. Lee Carlile Says:


    I hope that you will gather these meditations and beautiful paintings and publish them in a book so that we can see the progression all together. You have blessed me all through Lent.

    • carolyn sargent Says:

      :) I’ll second this as well…..

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Lee! Very grateful for your words and your encouragement. I look forward to having these reflections available as a book for a future Lenten season. A blessed Easter to you!

  5. Marcia Chadly Says:

    My answer to the questions: “On this Lenten day, where do you find the solid ground that God provides? How do you seek the refuge, solace, and shelter that God offers you…?”

    Often, I find this refuge, solace and shelter in other people and my connection with them. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

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