What Are You Leaving Behind?
The thought of taking a pilgrimage has been with me for several years. The wife of my rector of many years had herself taken several long pilgrimages, classic routes to Santiago and Rome and other places. I’ve been thinking about it, even a few years ago, at a retreat, going so far as to put it in writing to myself. Slowly, slowly, the plans are advancing.
One friend wrote to me about it. “Victor, you should do it while you’re still able to.” I think she wrote that with a smile.
A first bit of wisdom: a pilgrimage begins where you are, and it begins when you start preparing for it. You and I, we’re already on pilgrimage. And if it were eventually to happen that I took a pilgrimage to, say, Jerusalem, the answer to one question is obvious. Where do you start if you want to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem?
Well, I start from Dallas. That’s where I am.
The Cowley brothers had a recent issue of their journal devoted to pilgrimage. They had taken a long walk with some others who wanted to walk with them through England (I think it was). Early on, they asked their fellow pilgrims to identify what for them they were leaving behind. For, on a pilgrimage, one doesn’t just go forward to something. In order to go, one must also leave behind. Some leave behind family obligations, others work, others, other things.
In a sense, we don’t get a choice about whether we’ll go on a pilgrimage. Our whole life is a journey. We were created by God. And in the end we will be raised from the dead to stand before God. We’ve come from God and we’re going to God.
To take a pilgrimage is to set aside a bit of our life, to give ourselves a space to think about what the big picture is. I’ve been made by God; my destination (for better for worse) is God also. What is this in-between business about? What does my life mean? What is God doing, and how does he want me to participate in that?
I have discovered I have a problem: my feet tense up when I walk or run. I am trying to teach my feet to relax. I was out walking on some uneven ground, focusing my attention on the feeling of the rocks and the soil through my shoes, trying to let my feet sink into that, not to resist it, not to be tight. And I thought: this pilgrimage is going to be about tension. I hope I will be saying: what I’m leaving behind, it’s tension.
Out & About. This Sunday, July 21, at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, I am teaching a class on the perpetual virginity of St. Mary the Virgin. It's a pious belief held by some Christians, neither affirmed nor denied by Anglican formularies. The class starts at 10:20 in the Education Building, Room 205.
My sermon on the Good Samaritan, and the commandment (as we might say today) “to totally love the Lord thy God,” is here: https://incarnation.org/sermons/traditional-service-how-can-god-love-me/