Is pilgrimage still an important facet of a modern-day, Christian faith? Can this ancient ritual of journeying to a sacred site be relevant in our lives today?
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. ~Psalm 84:5
What is a pilgrimage?
1) A journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. from Random House Dictionary
2) Christian pilgrimage refers to a time when one seeks to separate himself from the everyday concerns of the world, and to spend time in the presence of God as he travels to a place with special meaning. from Ask.com
I especially love the second definition as it seems to fit better with our lives today. Maybe you don’t have a sacred place you feel compelled to visit, but we all need to separate ourselves from the everyday concerns and spend time in the presence of God. The journey to a place with special meaning doesn’t have to be a physical one.
I recently spent two days at Mo-Ranch, a Presbyterian conference center in the Texas Hill Country. This trip essentially was a pilgrimage for me. This is the place I first met God and is a sacred site from my spiritual journey (more on that in another post).
One of the things I did was walk the Labyrinth. I’ve heard of this before and been interested in trying it. When I saw signs to the Labyrinth, I knew I had to go. All I can say is Wow! What a moving and spiritual experience!
In case you’re not familiar with a Labyrinth, it’s a meandering path that has no dead ends or splits. Just one path to follow as you spend time with God. It started in the Middle Ages as an alternative to pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the Crusades. Pilgrims would instead travel to a cathedral and walk the labyrinth in prayer. Set themselves apart from their everyday lives and spend time in the presence of God, walking a symbolic journey to a special place in their hearts.
Through my Labyrinth walk and the experience of this pilgrimage, I found three reasons pilgrimage is still important and relevant for modern-day Christians.
1) Pilgrimage is about trusting God to lead you in a journey. In the Labyrinth, the path winds in ways you don’t expect and you can’t see what’s next, so you have to let go and trust in the journey. Pilgrimage is about spending time in prayer, listening for God. It’s coming to the realization that the end is simply the beginning of a new path. So, it’s not the end that’s important, but the journey. (Where have I heard that one before?)
What we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from ~T.S. Eliot
2) Like faith, the journey is about both inhaling and exhaling. On the journey to the center, I focused on release, on emptying out me and making space for God. Once I got to the center I was ready to spend time with God, in silence. I got all my talking about of the way while I was walking and was able to sit in silence and let God speak to my heart. Then, on the way out, I focused on filling up. Asking God to fill me and prepare me for the journey ahead. “Come, Holy Spirit!” We must take time to release ourselves, then we can be filled back up. Restored, renewed, refreshed.
3) Pilgrimage is about finding God, not a particular sacred site. What makes a site sacred is either we’ve personally experienced God’s presence in that spot or someone else has. God has been there! But, you know what, God is everywhere and can be present wherever you choose to have your pilgrimage.
Solvitur amvulando… It is solved by walking. ~Saint Augustine
Visiting my sacred site this week was moving and meaningful. To stand in the spot where I first met God. But, I don’t have to travel so far to have this pilgrimage experience again.
Taking a walk with God is the essence of pilgrimage.
I hope you can find your own pilgrimage. Either to visit a sacred site from your own faith journey or simply to set apart time and space to journey with God.
Linking with: Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Unite, Playdates at the Wellspring, Modest Monday, Tell Me A Story, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2sdays, Wednesday Prayer Girls, A Little R & R, Thought Provoking Thursday