To go on pilgrimage is to set one’s face towards Jerusalem.
In my previous article, I emphasized that while sacred time, sacred space, and sacred journey are its most commonly regarded themes, Christian pilgrimage encompasses a wide range of images and practices. Thus, rather than settling upon a single definition, pilgrimage includes various expressions of the Christian life.
Pilgrimage can be local, liturgical, and metaphorical. It can also be global, missional, and profoundly incarnational.
Pilgrimage embodies the virtue of perseverance, patience, and simplicity. It employs faith, movement, and memory.
It can be a one-off event or a life-long experience.
Pilgrimage often touches upon ideas of departure, journey, and destination.
The destination? The city of Jerusalem or some representation therefore. Whatever ‘destination’ means, it finds allegorical expression in the image of the Holy City. For Christians, to ‘arrive’ is to enter the gates of Jerusalem.
However, long before Christians allegorized the Holy City, or re-imagined it as New Jerusalem, the city’s stones bore witness to the historical events of our faith. It was the city of King David and King Solomon and the place of Jesus’ ever-attraction to the Temple. An abandoned quarry outside the city’s north wall delivered the setting for his crucifixion and resurrection.
Come and see.
Paulinus of Nola best summed it up in the fifth century: “‘No other sentiment draws people to Jerusalem than the desire to see and touch the places where Christ was physically present, and to be able to say from their very own experience, ‘We have gone into his tabernacle, and have worshipped in the places where his feet have stood.’”
That’s what we do at St George’s College. We encounter the land of the gospels by walking in the steps of Jesus and praying at the holy sites. Here, participants are transformed into pilgrims, who experience the Holy Land journey as ‘scriptures come to life.’ The geography of salvation is tangible, sensuous, and so firmly incarnational.
Serving the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Anglican Communion, and the Ecumenical Church, we offer 8-14 day pilgrim courses in biblical studies, local Christianity, and interfaith relations. Here, we live as community with other pilgrims, sharing the inspiration of the land and seeking the renewal of spirit.
Pilgrimage can be as local as the prayer of the heart, or as global as crossing the Seven Seas.
I am inviting you to cross the waters.
Come experience pilgrimage at St George’s College, and return home renewed in faith.
Rodney Aist is course director of St. George’s College, Jerusalem.