Preparing for Pilgrimage
For the last few weeks members of the choir and other Pinnacle family members have been preparing to go on a pilgrimage. Now, this pilgrimage may not look like others; we are not walking from London to Canterbury to see the blessed saint Thomas Beckett, and ask for miraculous healing after a journey of 55 miles on foot…as the ‘sundry folk’ of Chaucer’s tale did seven centuries ago. We are going to New York City…by plane. Now, New York’s not the first place one thinks of going to on a spiritual pilgrimage, and yet as a part of the family of faith we are going there to sing, fellowship and learn…learn about how ‘sundry folk’ in the big city live their lives of faith.
How does one prepare for such a pilgrimage? Well, to tell you the truth, I haven’t done much mental, emotional, or spiritual preparation. Basically, I spend all my time getting done all those things that allow me to be away for a week. This pilgrimage’s preparation has required of staff and participants a lot of practical preparation…and we’ve had little time to ready our souls for genuine encounter with God who in Christ “plays in 10,000 places.” Perhaps all of us will “prepare the way for the Lord” as we are sitting on the plane Thursday morning…very early.
Isn’t that how one gets ready for a pilgrimage? Look busy. Take care of business. Make sure someone will feed the cat while we’re gone?
Well, yes and no. The most important thing to say is: every day is a pilgrimage of faith. So, whether we are going across the country, or across the world, or across the street, each and every day gives us opportunities that pilgrims face out there in the wide world on their wild and unpredictable peregrinations. So, how do we prepare for the daily pilgrimage faith we all make?
I found these wise words to help us out: “The first moment of the pilgrimage experience is the decision to depart, a true inspiration of the heart, but also a vocation, a calling, an invitation to become a part of the pilgrim humanity, which has always set off on the path towards the chosen encounters with the Divine. Along with the decision comes waiting and expectations: every pilgrim, who has decided to depart, cannot wait to set off on the road, to reach the destination, to contemplate, to listen, to physically and spiritually rest. In a certain sense, the items a pilgrim packs reveals the kind of experience that he/she wishes to have! The luggage of a pilgrim should contain the essentials of travel, but also those that help to learn and pray.
Set the stage: What will I find? Who will travel with me? What is God preparing me for? For the pilgrim, leaving is sorrow, yet also life, joy, waiting, expectation, and hope. The duration of the journey, whether short or long, is not lost or wasted time. Instead it is in itself a time of grace, a precious occasion, and little by little as the minutes and miles pass, the desire for the destination grows.
Before departing, we can dedicate time to reading texts, such as the Bible or spiritual writings. We can gather in prayer and open our hearts to the Word of God allowing our docile, vigil spirit to welcome God’s splendor. We can participate in the worshipping community and begin to ask what it means to “come back to ourselves” and reenter the plan of Creation.”*
These words help us each enter the pilgrimage of every day. Set the stage for encounter and to “prepare the way of the Lord.”