Pilgrims, while travelling in hope of Divine blessings, learn to free themselves of particular expectations. By becoming truly available to the present moment we may gently leave behind, for a while, both regret and ambition. If we manage to remain so attentive and keep our hearts open to new experiences we will be amply rewarded, for wisdom from the past re-emerges in the present and is charged with new perspectives.
For those physically undertaking a pilgrim journey, unfamiliar surroundings and new companions provide a landscape to be explored. Making space to receive in gratitude what has yet to be discovered is helpfully complemented by a determination to embrace and enjoy the gaps between our plans.
Yet although the classical image of the pilgrim is one who moves from one place to another, it is also possible to be on pilgrimage without leaving familiar territory. By embracing a deepening quality of attentiveness we can gain new perspectives in the here and now. In doing so we can undertake an inward journey and, in becoming for a time more open to God, we may see things anew and afresh, marvelling at what we thought we had already known.
Optional starter questions:
- So as to fully appreciate our pilgrim journey, how can we become fully present to our surroundings?
- What am I beginning to discover as I become more attentive to my experience of the everyday?
- What new insights are emerging, to which I need to pay special attention as they signify for me the presence of God in my life?
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
Matt 6: 26
WEEK THREE: BECOMING PRESENT
we pray for another way of being,
another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath:
lead us there where in simplicity
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel
the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where side-by-side
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights
of the pilgrim; another way of knowing:
another way of being.
‘When I talk to you – a cartoonist talks to God’
Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. When I breathe in and become fully alive, I see myself as a miracle. When I look at an orange mindfully, I see an orange as a miracle. The fact that you are still alive is a miracle. So miracles are the things that you perform several times each day with the power of mindfulness.
The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. I perform this miracle every time I walk. You too can perform the miracle of walking any time you want.
Thich Nhat Hanh
When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in Autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat, when we see children in a moment that they are really children, when we know love in our hearts or when, like the Japanese poet Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash…
At such times the awakening,
the turning inside out of all values,
the emptiness and the purity of vision that makes themselves evident,
all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.
‘New Seeds of Contemplation’
I was challenged by the pace that we walked;
I was challenged by the heat: I was challenged by the weight of my pack on my back for several hours at a time. I was challenged by the way God showed me ways of overcoming difficulties by accepting the help of fellow-pilgrims.
I was thrilled to finish the distance each day;
I was thrilled by the beautiful vista we enjoyed
as we walked the Northumbrian coastline;
I was thrilled to share in conversation with those I now count as friends: I was thrilled to sense the presence of God from whom I drew strength as I struggled on the journey and at the end of the day to know His peace and His rest in His promise of renewed strength for the next part of the pilgrimage.
Like any journey, I experienced tiredness, pain, frustration and pressure to keep up with the others. But I found that as I looked back on each day I had much more to be thankful for. The company of friends, the beautiful scenes that met us around every corner, the food that sustained us, the warm water that eased aching limbs, the ever-loving presence of our Everyday God whose company was evident in our walking and in our resting.
Pilgrimage from Durham to Lindisfarne,
My dearest Lord,
be thou a bright flame before me,
be thou a guiding star above me,
be thou a smooth path beneath me,
be thou a kindly shepherd behind me,
today and for evermore.
St Columba of Iona
Every effort has been made to trace copyright. However, we would be glad to hear from any holders of copyright not traced so that due acknowledgement can be made.
All images istock except where indicated.
Matt 6 – Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Dear God’ – Michael Leunig (When I talk to you – a cartoonist talks to God, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2006)
‘Our true home’ – reprinted from Touching Peace (1992) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, parallax.org
‘When we are alone…’ – by Thomas Merton, from New Seeds of Contemplation, copyright ©1961 by The Abbey of Gethsemani, Inc. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
SET OUT ON THE PILGRIMAGE
Welcome to the 2016 CTBI Lent course
The CTBI Lent Course 2016 represents a departure in style and format from that offered in previous years. Each week, we are invited to gather in groups for reflection and spiritual conversation around a series of themes drawn from the overarching title of Pilgrimage’. The idea is that we embark on a spiritual journey through Lent, both alone and in company, sharing with others our personal reflections, stories and insights.
The notion of ‘Pilgrimage’ is presented in the form of collections of sayings, images, wisdom and prayers from a variety of sources, which are gathered into a pack of seven conversation booklets suitable for personal and group use. Each member of a group will need their own copy of the pack, which will be used as a personal journal.
The Open Road
Where the invitation is to undertake a particular kind of journey, a sacred journey which involves both inner and outer dimensions. As we set out, what is our desire, or longing?
GO TO WEEK ONE
Taking and Leaving
Focus on choice. How do we choose what to keep, what we require for inner vitality and balance, and what to leave behind, things which may once have helped us but we now find burdensome and obstructive?
GO TO WEEK TWO
Alone and Together
Focuses on our relationships with others. In our search for ‘unity in diversity’, how do we learn from ‘the other’? What does it mean to be separate yet ‘one’?
GO TO WEEK FOUR
Where we are invited to contemplate the mystery of God at the heart of the Christian experience. Each step on the journey illuminates more questions, for example: what is the nature of suffering?
GO TO WEEK SIX
When we contemplate the significance of our pilgrim journey for the future. What people, networks, ideas, insights have we discovered that will continue to inspire us?
GO TO WEEK SEVEN
Whilst you may wish to print out the contents of these pages, we suggest you will find it more useful and less costly to purchase copies of the ‘Pilgrimage’ pack, which is recommended for conversation group settings and individual use.