I planned to keep a journal. I thought I would write each day about the one thing that stood out, that shone brightest with beauty or insight, revealed most His face. I thought I would write about the one thing each day.
The thing with pilgrimage is that you do all the preparation, then (not unexpectedly) you have no idea the way it will lead you, the way God will lead you. If you are lucky, you do know only this...God will lead you.
Decades ago under the good guidance of Fr Eugene LaVerdiere, I was encouraged to deepen my praying with the scriptures by not relating to one of the characters in the passage but by being myself in the passage. Think of a common biblical story – the pilgrim disciples on the road to Emmaus - something like this painting by Josef von Führich, 1837 ...
then 'step into the picture' and let it unfold.
This is what I experienced on pilgrimage - I stepped in, entering the humanity of Christ, of God with us, in a new and deeply moving way. Walking so closely at times I could feel the dust from his steps fall upon my own feet. Terra Firma. We stood together on the same stones, drank in with our eyes the same landscape, stepped into the same mud of the River Jordan. There was a comingling, an incorporation that I had not experienced before, stirring a longing in me, an interior movement, a recognition. Uncontrived and inexplicable, like love ripened in a long marriage. As though I had been looking all my life at his feet, his cloak, watching his hand, accustom to his voice. When I received communion in the cave at Bethlehem that first morning, it dawned upon me that I do not only receive Jesus by this wondrous sacrament, become the body of Christ, but in a very substantial way He receives me. I was not going on pilgrimage, we were. At Dominus Flevit (God’s tears) I wept with Him for all our resistances, on the way to Tiberius I laughed with Him in the sea spray of Galilee, on the Mount of Beatitudes I felt the winds of the spirit carry His words to me. The same stones that absorbed his agony at the flagellation received my body and it's heartrending load.
If there was a one thing, this is it. It was not some shining moment among many, some singular point of clarity and conversion, a flash revelation of mercy and love; it took more than a moment. It was the ongoing impact of each experience, each place, each word spoken grounding me and awakening my senses, eucharisteo, humbling and joyful, overwhelming at times and so very ordinary, extraordinarily human. It is the sense that everything belongs, that the stones do sing, and it is the grace that has come home with me, small pilgrim that I am. It is the keepsake in my soul. Everything brings me to Jesus.