August 2021


It was in August (22 August 565 actually) that the Loch Ness monster was spotted for the first time. Of course the story of the Monster was only popularised when a road was built across the loch much later, in 1933. But when scholars investigated, they discovered that the first possible sighting was recorded in the days of St Columba, who supposedly confronted the creature in 565.

An Irish monk who had sailed to Scotland to spread the gospel of Christ, Columba was visiting the land of the Picts when he reached the river Ness. There he came across some locals burying one of their friends, who, it was said “some water monster had a little before snatched at as he was swimming, and bitten with a most savage bite”.

Columba ordered one of his followers to swim across the river and to bring back a boat. But the water monster made another appearance.

“Not so much satiated as made eager for prey,” explained a contemporary chronicler, it was “lying hidden in the bottom of the river.” But now it “suddenly emerged, and, swimming to the man as he was crossing in the middle of the stream, rushed up with a great roar and open mouth”.

All were terrified – except Columba. “With his holy hand raised on high,” the chronicler recorded, “he formed the saving sign of the cross in the empty air, invoked the Name of God, and commanded the fierce monster, saying: ‘Think not to go further, nor touch thou the man. Quick! Go back!’”

The monster fled, while Columba’s followers loudly praised God. As for the locals, they were apparently converted on the spot (I suppose you would be, wouldn’t you?)

Well I have sailed through Loch Ness in the month of August and despite looking very carefully, have (like thousands of others) seen neither hair nor hide (nor scales) of a monster. Believers of course claim that the monster is simply keeping out of peoples’ way (a very sensible monster really).

The majority of non-believers in the monster presumably take the line that they don’t believe what they haven’t seen and in doing so echo the view of Thomas who initially refused to believe in the risen Christ. People can be pretty stubborn and the claims of Christianity can seem pretty demanding, weird even.

John’s gospel (which concludes with the Thomas story) often raises the theme of ‘seeing and believing’. The Jews saw and didn’t believe; the disciples finally saw and believed and Jesus spoke of those who would not see and yet would believe. Not seeing can be believing too!

The American Presbyterian, Frederick Buescher, wrote,” A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, ‘I can’t prove a thing, but there’s something about His eyes and His voice. There’s something about the way He carries His head, His hands, the way He carries His cross – the way He carries me.’

You see?


Colin Dixon

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