Category Archives: Ash Wednesday

Pilgrimage

Next week, I’m traveling to Israel for a study tour / pilgrimage. I’ll try to post something each day. Some days I’ll include my devotional thoughts about a particular Bible site we’re seeing. Other days, I’ll just blog.

You can follow my journey or take your own here. Every passage can be a pilgrimage, whether you’re traveling to a new place or simply plodding through your days at home. Lent, which begins today, is the perfect season for pilgrimage.

Margaret M. Poloma is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Akron. While she studies the sociology of religion, spirituality, and health for her work, she is also a participant in several renewal movements including the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the Toronto Blessing. From both her personal and her professional perspectives, she identifies the following stages or aspects of spiritual pilgrimage.

Illumination is an encounter with the Light, a purification, and a revelation of truth, of love, and of spiritual gifts. This is the space for awakening and hearing Jesus’ summons to abide more deeply in the Vine (John 15:5). Here we are (re-)equipped with the whole armor of God (Eph 6:14–19). 

Purgation is submission to the Vinedresser for pruning (John 15:1–2). As the disciples did at the transfiguration, we acknowledge the work of the cross (Matt 17:1–23): the Son of Man must die. This is the place of our own desert experiences (Num 14:33–34; Mark 1:12–13). Here we encounter the darkness (Isa 45:7), a sense of God’s absence. Here we pad through ordinary hum-drum, carrying mental, spiritual, emotional, or physical burdens and hoping for a healing touch from God. Here the Bride is beaten by the watchmen as she wanders the streets in search of her Beloved (Song 5:5–8). Purgation means the death of spiritual pride and elitism. 

Unity is learning to love in the darkness, when outward signs of God’s love are stilled. God alone is light (Ps 139:12). This is the season of mystical unity with Divine Love, of power, of deeper longing, and of satisfaction. Here love of God and love of neighbor become one (1 John 3:14–16; 4:7–8). We are in prayer together, living as a community, and reaching out to those in need.

Which of these aspects of pilgrimage describe your experience at this season in your life? What question about this stage do you wish to ask God? Perhaps you might hold that out to him throughout your Lenten pilgrimage.

Come back tomorrow for some practical suggestions for how you can turn your Lenten journey into a spiritual pilgrimage.

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