Tom and I are heading off to England this morning to work with Livability. I am particularly looking forward to a few days relaxation in London between events. Going to Britain always has a sense of pilgrimage for me. On our honeymoon almost 20 years ago we visited Iona, for me my first trip to this very special island, and since then it has been the destination for several pilgrimages. We have also visited Holy Island and other pilgrimage sites, and so while we are away I thought that I would do a series of posts about pilgrimage.
Going to Holy Island for the first time, in particular, gave me a sense of my own life as a pilgrimage with the destination being “The Holy City of God” or in more modern terms – God’s eternal shalom world of wholeness and abundance.
I loved reading about how the pilgrims stopped along the way to pray and give thanks at shrines particularly designated for this purpose. The pathways were often marked by crosses – wayside crosses – that gave an assurance that they were on the right track. These wayside crosses also gave a sense that no matter how often the pilgrim stopped, they were always aware that the final destination, the holy city of God or in this case Holy Island toward which they were moving, still lay ahead.
Holy Island is still a popular place for pilgrimage. And today as in the Middle Ages people go on pilgrimage for many reasons. For many it is a true journey towards the presence of God and a recognition that all of life is a pilgrimage. The journey’s end often culminates with a renewal of vows to God and a renewed sense of the kingdom of God as our final destination.
Pilgrimages that renew our sense of God’s purpose for us are very important and should be taken a regular intervals. If we cannot go on a physical pilgrimage, activities that give us a sense of pilgrimage can be a good substitute. As prepare for the celebration of Advent and Christmas, it is a great season to think about this.