Pilgrimage...

Part of my vacation discipline is reconnecting with the spirituality of Iona.  I have been a fan of George MacLeod since the late 70s and an Associate of the community for the past 7 years. To be faithful in this vow means that each day I will find a time for prayer and Bible reading, each week I will gather with others for worship and each year I will make a financial donation to the ministry of the community.  In the spirit of Iona, I have also found it essential to meet periodically with a "spiritual friend" for discernment, share 5% of my earnings with the wider church and gather monthly with other colleagues for what might be called "group spiritual direction" and study. 

For the next two weeks of vacation I have chosen to reflect on both Kathy Galloway's Living by the Rule and Chris King's Pathways for Pilgrims. To be honest, I need this kind of structure for strengthening my inner journey.  Don't get me wrong:  I am sometimes lifted outside myself when a piece of music comes together with beauty and groove - it is ecstatic communion with the sacred - and I value this experience beyond comprehension.  And I am also lazy enough to confess that without a structure for my prayer life, I will distract myself so successfully that daily prayer and Bible reading will get squeezed out of my calendar altogether.  I may come from a so-called "free prayer" tradition, but I need structure and order to stay grounded.

In today's reading from King's text there is talk of how pilgrimage is an important part of the spirituality of Iona.  Every week the residents and community members take a "pilgrimage round the island" that asks for a "prayerful consideration of the history of the place" as well as a quiet consideration of God's place in each pilgrim's heart.  I wonder what this might mean here, if, for example, people in my faith community and I made a pilgrimage around our downtown?  What would we see that would touch our hearts?  Move us towards action?  Inspire or confuse?

One thing that strikes me would be the paradox of living a life of faith:  there is always more work to be done than we can accomplish, there is always more beauty and pain than we can fathom to say nothing of more grace than we deserve.  Just walking downtown last week made me aware again of the brokenness and healing in our small city.  Fr. Richard Rohr has noted that he is "increasingly  convinced that all true spirituality has the character of paradox to it,  precisely because it is always holding together the whole of reality, which is  always “Both/And.” Everything except God is both attractive and non-attractive,  light and darkness, passing and eternal, life and death. There are really no  exceptions."

He concludes by saying that: "You and I are living paradoxes,  which everybody except ourselves sees. If you can learn to hold and forgive the contradictions within yourself, you can normally do it everywhere else, too."  And what a blessing that would be, yes?

On the pilgrimage at Iona they pray:

God of the journey, as we travel on
alert us to the things that matter
and open our eyes to every sign of your presence.
Give us a sense of direction,
or at least a sense of purpose,
a sense of wonder,
a sense that, in everything,
you are walking with us step by step,
gently leading us to the heart of things.

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