Pilgrimation Retrospective Part 2: To be a pilgrim

What is a pilgrim? Someone on a pilgrimage? Through life or to places of special meaning? 

Pilgrimage involves a significant journey that may be hard or long. It's travel but not tourism.  

Pilgrims may follow a guide but are open to the unexpected on the way.

Bishop Alan makes an interesting comment about the difference between being a pilgrim and a tourist in his post Two Roads to Remembrance. He describes 'resonant remembrance' (in contrast to 'contemplative remembrance') as messy:
"You put yourself through a routine with your wits around you, but floating on the surface, so that a stray thought or impression can resonate against something in you, and bring you up against something you thought you had forgotten all about, but can now be understood in a new light."
Putting myself through a routine devised by others (the programme for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land) freed me from responsibility of deciding what to do. It allowed me to be enter into unexpected moments of painful or joyful recognition.

I hadn't expected the marmot to climb onto the rock beside us as we celebrated the Holy Eucharist on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. For several minutes it basked in the sun, a parable of relaxation and trust more powerful for me at that moment than the words of the preacher. I restrained myself from taking a photo during the service. Sarah Meyrick has written about it here.

I had expected the street noise and bustle as we observed the Staions of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. What surpised me was that I fell over just before the 9th station (Jesus falls for the 3rd time) and was almost embarassed that my only injury was chipped nail varnish. The incident reminded me of a story I'd forgotten of the question about what monks do all day in the monastery. The answer from the abbott was,
"We fall and we get up. We fall and we get up. We..."
In another words, weakness and failure is OK. It's how you respond to it that matters. There were many other moments of connection and resonance which I'm only just starting to unpack in a more contemplative way.

Bishop Alan suggests that the process of "messy resonance" is 
"...how this kind of pilgrimage works — not high class rubbernecking, but allowing oneself to be carried along in a stream of experience that allows for sympathetic resonance. You come back with a new view, not of the buildings, but yourself. That’s the difference between being a Pilgrim and a Tourist..."
What do you think?

Photo: my own: early morning sun over Mount Tabor


  1. The pilgrimage sounds wonderful. I have never been to the Holy Land, and wonder if I ever will, but sometimes I feel like doing a mini-pilgrimage visiting somewhere and just being.

    I go to Aylesford Priory occasionally, where it is so peaceful with the Friars - you can just sit and absorb God around you, perhaps like being wrapped in a blanket of love.

    Also, you are able to attend (if you wish) RC Mass and other services as they happen. Once, I was privileged to share the final profession of one of the Friars. The joy and hope in him, his fellow religious and his family was palpable.

    Another one is to go to an early morning communion on Saturday at Canterbury Cathedral - a range of different celebrants and sometimes BCP. The language is just something which puts everything into perspective.

    Time for being is precious, I wish that I did more of it.

  2. As you say, UK Viewer, "time for being is precious". Perhaps it doesn't matter where we go to find that. I'd love to visit Aylesford Priory - it sounds like a very special place.


Post a Comment