Friday, May 16, 2014

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Day 1: Departure

It is said that in medieval times, men, on the eve before their knighthood, would keep vigil.  Kneeling in a dark, cold chapel before God’s candlelit Presence, they would ask for grace and courage, strength and fortitude.  In the face of their struggles and trials and journey.

Today, we are leaving on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, forty of us from our Parish Family at St. Barbara Church at Old Mission Santa Barbara in California.  At noon, we will celebrate Eucharist, asking for grace, courage, strength, and fortitude as well. Then, we'll  load our bags and baggage onto a chartered bus for LAX, Los Angeles County International Airport.  Boarding Flight 010,  Turkish Airlines, bound for Istanbul.  Transferring to Tel Aviv, arriving at our first night’s lodging at the Hotel Metropolitan, at the close of Shabbat. A full day later on earth; fifteen hours in the air.

So, here we are, in a metaphorical sense if not a literal one, at the vigil, on the cusp of our spiritual journey.  I have checked the Gospel for the day.  It is from John, chapter 14 (“Do not let your hearts be troubled”).  It is one of the most popular Gospel readings chosen for--- funerals!  But today, we can look at in a totally different , more celebratory light.  Thomas goes on to complain to Jesus that “where You are going, we do not know the way.”  To which Jesus responds, “I am the Way.  And the Truth.  And the Life….”

Jesus the Way.  Jesus, our Destination.  . . . And our Transportation!
I had to stop and reflect for a moment.  Someone once told me that the oldest and most enduring artifacts of human construction are not buildings but—roads!  It stands to reason, doesn’t it.  Can we consider the top of the Great Wall of China to be in itself a road?  What about the Appian Way in Rome, or the Via Maria from Damascus to Cairo on ancient times?  Or, closer to home, Highway 101 in California, the El Camino Real, or the King’s Highway, built on the pathway connecting each of the 21 Franciscan Missions erected in the 18-19th centuries under the Spanish Empire? The horse-, chariot- and footprint of these great avenues are with us today, having survived every manner of man and mayhem.

At their very  best, roads connect.  Relate.  Expedite communication.  The movement of goods and people; materiel for wars and intellectual property.  And Faith. Paths, roads, freeways  (and now, even  the Internet “highway”) enable us to break free of our isolation and can liberate us from the burdens of inertia and hopelessness.

Christ is our Destination.  And our Transportation.  The Way to the Father in the Spirit.  The Path of our salvation.  He makes of Himself, for us, the means to reach Him, guiding us, holding us, moving us along, from love to Love on our journey homeward.

So, we travel.  As pilgrims toward our hope-filled Destination, which is Christ.  And Christ Himself is the means of our spiritual movement and design.

A prayer attributed to St. Patrick  comes to mind:

Christ with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me.
Christ on my right
Christ on my left.
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise.
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me.
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.
Christ in the eye that sees me
Christ in the ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord, the Christ.
May your Salvation, Lord, be ever with us.

(As we travel).  Amen.//

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