Still not quite from the Rectory...
July is a month when many of our thoughts turn to travel and journeys. We’re off on holidays, wishing we were off on holiday, planning to be off on holiday.
Most of my travel at the moment is not holiday related however, I’m now over-familiar with the state of the dual carriage way and the M271 at various times of day! There’s something about travelling that teaches us a lot about ourselves; whether or not I’m patient with roundabout ditherers in the morning for one thing.
Are you the sort of person who leaves acres of time and ends up waiting for the check in desk or the station coffee shop to open? Or do you tend to think it will be fine and slide in by a whisker as the gate is closing?
Journeys really are a metaphor for life in so many ways!
So it is no surprise that we often use them as an illustration of the spiritual life too. From birth and baptism, we talk about being on a journey of faith, the path of life. The Bible uses this image too “your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”.
We may not always know where a path is leading as it winds through a valley or up a hill, but following signs, or a map, or the satnav, we trust that if we stick with it, we’ll end up where we should be. Sometimes there are deviations, or obstructions that require us to reroute but with prayer and perseverance we keep on, consulting the map or asking our Guide as we go.
Christians have long valued the tradition of making this metaphor of journey a physical reality; we call this Pilgrimage, it’s almost sacramental; an enfleshing – or perhaps enrocking! of our spiritual and emotional journey through life, heading for a destination, a point of prayer, of remembrance, of decision making.
There is something about physically making a journey that helps us to reflect on our spiritual journeys – perhaps we see the same attitudes and patterns emerge, impatience, laziness, and reluctance to change direction? Or maybe we celebrate with each step taken and learn to trust again and again our Guide and our map.
A pilgrimage can be as simple as a day trip to somewhere where we find God, a beach, a spot in the Forest, an old church. Or, it can be as physically arduous and mentally draining as walking the Camino de Santiago (one of my ambitions one day…)
I will once again in early July be co-leading the Diocesan pilgrimage to the Taizé community in Burgundy, France; travelling by bus with a group of young people, walking with the Brothers of the community in prayer for a week, and making the return journey home again. It is a journey I know well, but every time I make it I learn something new about myself, others and God from the simple process of travelling, let alone the destination.
Wherever we journey this summer, whether for work or leisure or indeed prayer, let us be mindful of the practice of Pilgrimage, of learning from our physical journeys more about ourselves and God to sustain and strengthen us on our journey with Him through life Christians and together as Church.
With love, and safe travels…