Living Life as PILGRIMAGE
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
I have been reading Gerard Hughes’ book ‘In Search of a Way’ that describes the journey he made on foot, from London to Rome in 1975, and the inner journey of the soul that he encountered whilst making this pilgrimage. He tells us that we are to live as a pilgrim people, a people that is on the move, continually growing and discovering new ways of seeing. But he also describes the physical journey as a metaphor for the inner journey, that is often fraught with difficulty, crossing hard and unknown terrain, sleeping in wild and exposed places, and being vulnerable to the elements of rain, snow, or the searing heat of the sun. We are challenged by invitations to give up and take an alternative, easier route that looks more familiar, more fun and inviting, but what keeps the true pilgrim traveling is his desire to reach the sacred space that is his destination; a place of spiritual renewal and enlightenment.
Pilgrimage is about process, the process of journey and change; of an acceptance of whatever may come your way whilst also holding to a focused determination and desire to pursue holiness. Pilgrimage takes time; it is not instant; it is not site seeing, visiting or holidaying. A pilgrimage is a planned journey, time set aside with a purpose, a knowledge of the destination and the hope of complete healing. It is a process of restoration, a letting go of personal comforts and securities and an opening up of oneself to vulnerability and the hospitality of strangers. It cuts against self reliance and independence, for although it can be experienced at times alone, it requires the support and encouragement of others, the welcoming embrace of community and the help and welcome of the stranger.
Pilgrimage encourages humility, self denial and a rejection of the desire and need for power and position, for whilst on pilgrimage you own nothing. You take with you very few belongings and you embrace the life of poverty and in so doing learn to love and find affinity with the poor and vulnerable of the world.
So what does this mean to us in our postmodern society, how do we live our lives as a pilgrim? What did Jesus mean when he called his disciples and asked them to leave their nets and their families and to follow him? Can I learn to live as a pilgrim whilst also creating home? Can I build my nest, tend to family, serve in my community and yet still embrace life as a pilgrimage?
For many of us the opportunity to partake on a physical journey/pilgrimage is not possible due to family or work commitments but we can all embrace the notion of pilgrimage as an inner journey of the soul. I am slowly learning that to journey towards wholeness is to learn to hold things lightly; to be content to relinquish control and in so doing to embrace freedom; to journey towards a deeper understanding of what it means to be completely loved and accepted for who I am am and not just for what I achieve. My personal pilgrimage is a lifetime journey towards the fulfillment of God’s purposes within me and within the places I pass through.
Take some time this week to look back over your life and reflect upon your journey towards wholeness. When have you known that you were on the right path, and what were the situations that brought you closer to your destination. When have you wandered from the path or been distracted by things that are not part of God’s purposes for you. When have you been surprised by the landscape you have passed through, the fruits you have tasted along your journey, the joys and passions you have discovered. Who has traveled alongside you as companion, to accompany you for part of your journey, and who have you encouraged and walked alongside? When have you felt lost or bewildered, or too weary to continue, and how were your needs met? When have you been unexpectedly blessed or received the hospitality of a stranger? Who has welcomed you and encouraged you along your way?
Journal your thoughts, allow YAWEH to speak to you as you cast your mind back over your past.
‘May all that is unforgiven in you,
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquiliites.
May all that is unlived in you,
Blossom into a future,
Graced with love.’