Notes from the Journey
This was the invitation:
“Part of being a pilgrim is being vulnerable, being willing to lose yourself, so that you can truly find yourself grounded and centered in the Divine. The Certificate in Spiritual Formation offers you a safe space for such sacred exploration. The path is open to all. Come journey with us and practice living the way of pilgrimage.”
Many Spirituality Program participants have responded to the invitation over the years. The latest group of pilgrims traveled to Israel early this March.
One spiritual pilgrim created a beautiful blog marking her journey. She has graciously allowed us to share some of her blog entries and photos from her time in Israel.
Our life experiences come from places. Some places shape our lives even though we’ve never set foot on their soil. As long as I can remember, I’ve read about and sang hymns about Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Gethsemane,the River Jordan and the Sea of Galilee. In a few days I will set off to visit each of these places and to follow the paths that Jesus walked. These places are part of his story and his story is an integral part of mine.
We ended our day in the ruins of Capernaum. Set on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus made this the center of his ministry. This is where Jesus taught, healed the sick, performed miracles, and instructed followers that He is the Bread of Life. I sat in the ruins of the synagogue and imagined the world in Jesus’ day – a bustling ancient city, the blue sea in view and the throngs of people following him around this sea to hear his teachings. I saw myself as one of thousands and thousands of pilgrims through the centuries that has come to see for themselves. Like them, it will take some time to know all that this means to me.
Today, I felt awe in the things that I could see, touch, and experience –a rocking boat on an uncertain sea, cold wet feet on rough stones, an ancient boat, and a story that came alive for me.
Churches have been constructed above many of the well-known sites in order to protect them and to provide a place for the crowds of visitors and pilgrims. Down the damp stone stairway in the Greek Orthodox Church is Mary’s well, the only well in Nazareth and the site of an appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary.
We celebrated this Lenten Friday by walking the path that Jesus walked. We began our morning walk at the Mount of Olives descending the steep hill into the Garden of Gethsemane.
Climbing another hill, we entered the Old City at the Lion’s Gate continuing down the Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa followed Jesus’ steps from his entrance to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to His crucifixion and resurrection.
I am taking a new image with me when I hear the words of prophesy from the Book of Isaiah this Christmas. I will imagine a candle-lit, stone room of ascetic Jews, sharp wooden pens in hand, meticulously writing the words of Isaiah on scrolls. And when I think about the Shepherds who saw the angels bring the good news, I will think of another Shepherd boy who wandered into a cave to find a treasure.
Each evening of this pilgrimage, Betty, Joanie, Margarethe, Robin and I met in our small group to share a glass of wine and our impressions of the day. “What made the deepest impression on you today? Where did you see actions that give you hope? ” we asked. “What do you sense that God’s spirit is saying to you through this day’s experience?”
So, here is my prayer for you. May your eyes encounter images of hope today and may these signs of hope change you just a little.