Pilgrims and Pilgrimage

I’ve been thinking about this topic recently after reading a book about going on a pilgrimage (Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review). I came across this poem by Sir Walter Raleigh, said to have been written shortly before his death by beheading. I really liked it, and I hope our readers will, too. It’s definitely an English major moment!

The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

   Blood must be my body’s balmer,
No other balm will there be given,
Whilst my soul, like a white palmer,
Travels to the land of heaven;
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains;
And there I’ll kiss
The bowl of bliss,
And drink my eternal fill
On every milken hill.
My soul will be a-dry before,
But after it will ne’er thirst more;
And by the happy blissful way
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,
That have shook off their gowns of clay,
And go apparelled fresh like me.
I’ll bring them first
To slake their thirst,
And then to taste those nectar suckets,
At the clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets
.

   And when our bottles and all we
Are fill’d with immortality,
Then the holy paths we’ll travel,
Strew’d with rubies thick as gravel,
Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,
High walls of coral, and pearl bowers.

   From thence to heaven’s bribeless hall
Where no corrupted voices brawl,
No conscience molten into gold,
Nor forg’d accusers bought and sold,
No cause deferr’d, nor vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the king’s attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees,
And he hath angels, but no fees.
When the grand twelve million jury
Of our sins and sinful fury,
’Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader,
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder,
Thou movest salvation even for alms,
Not with a bribed lawyer’s palms.
And this is my eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea,
Seeing my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head to dine next noon,
Just at the stroke when my veins start and spread,
Set on my soul an everlasting head.
Then am I ready, like a palmer fit,
To tread those blest paths which before I writ.

P. S. In case you are wondering, the scallop shell was an ancient symbol associated with pilgrimage, and palmer is another name for pilgrim.

If you’re interested in more of my English major moments see:

An English Major Moment from Joan

Another of Joan’s English Major Moments

More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

And Then There are Pilgrimages …..

Writing about retreats reminded me of another way to “rest with God.”  A pilgrimage. Have you thought of yourself as a pilgrim?  Well it’s a common idea in Christianity and other religions as well.

A pilgrim  is a traveler  who is on journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey or pilgrimage (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religion. In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of physical life (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the pilgrim  from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.

Pilgrimages were common in the middle ages.  Remember The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer? (well if you’re an English major you do).  These pilgrims were bound for Canterbury to the Shrine of Thomas a Becket, a Christian martyr.  Today a famous pilgrimage site is the Camino de Santiago in Spain, where thousands of pilgrims each year walk to the Shrine of St. James.

Pilgrimages, like retreats, offer a break or rest from day to day life.  Often they are made with traveling companions who, like Chaucer’s pilgrims, share stories and testimonies.  Just spending time walking is a way of slowing down and relaxing.  Taking the time to listen to those we’ve never met is rare in everyday life.

You don’t have to travel to Spain or England to make a pilgrimage, and you don’t have to go with a large group.  If you are on vacation, or even in your home town, study the area and select a church or another place with religious experience.  Go to visit, walk around.  Speak with others who are there, or tour guides who know about the location.  When my husband and I went to visit friends in South Carolina, they took us to one of the oldest churches in that area.  The church was open, and we spoke with some current members who were there as hosts.  We learned about its’ history.  It was a sort of pilgrimage.

Another way to go on a pilgrimage is to walk a labyrinth.  While some think this is a new age fad, it is actually an ancient Christian tradition.  The most famous is in the Cathedral of Chartres in France.  Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has one winding path that takes you to the center and then back out again.  It was considered a substitute for those who could not make an actual pilgrimage.  Walking a labyrinth is calming and meditative.  I have done this a number of times and would recommend it as an occasional spiritual exercise.  See if there’s one in your area.  The last one I walked was in Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.  Sometimes churches will have these, as well.

My point is — get creative with rest!  You can go on retreat, walk a labyrinth, take a pilgrimage.  You can create your own spiritual adventure.  Rest takes many forms, so try new things and find what works for you.  Just make sure your rest is the kind that renews you spiritually as well as physically.

God loves you and so do I!