Friday, June 6, 2014

Seven Churches...Seven Questions

   I took along on my trip the Michael Rodgers and Marcus Losack book, Glendalough: A Celtic Pilgrimage.  It was been a wonderful inspiration for my stay in Glendalough.  Rather than a mere guide book, it is also a book of spiritual questioning which has been the whole focus of this pilgrimage.  They ask the pilgrim to not only look at the monuments in this historic site but to use each as a spring board to explore deeper questions.  

  The first church is Trinity. Not part of the monastic city, it was built in the 11th century, probably on the site of a much older wooden one of the 6th or 7th century. It is easily overlooked as it is a bit off the beaten track and it is a scramble over stiles and stone walls to get to it.

   The church has one of the finest arches of all the churches and it is the arch that forms the basis for the question.

   Seven identical granite stones are held in place by the key stone. (Seven is a sacred number relating, perhaps, to the seven stages of life.)  The authors ask one to contemplate how the key stone holds the balance; without it the arch would tumble to the ground.

  What is the key stone in your life?  What holds the balance of the opposing sides?

   Finding a guide book that challenges one to think is a rare treat.  It is the difference between being a tourist or a pilgrim.  As I visited each of the seven churches, I reflected on how these questions applied to the personal pilgrimage I am on.  I think they are relevant for any person wanting to explore the spiritual dimension of their lives.  Here are the other questions the authors suggest:

How can you enter into a new communion with others?

How is your faith reflected in your daily life?

How do you experience friendship and do you have a soul friend?

How can we embrace the feminine aspect of creation?

Can you recognize the divine presence in the natural world?

How can you remain open to change and new directions in your life?

   These questions were, for me, a kind of review of my entire pilgrimage.   You can read the wonderful poem by Macrina Wiederkehr, Tourist or Pilgrim? here.  I’ve used it before but it seems appropriate to reconsider it especially as the summer travel season is fast approaching.  You needn’t travel half way ‘round the world to take a pilgrimage.  It can be as near to hand as your own back yard.  Distance doesn’t make a pilgrim, intention does.

   I leave Glendalough today for Dublin. I fly home on Sunday. I love the last lines of Macrina's poem and I will think about them this weekend.

And yet, you cannot reach that home
until you’ve loved the pilgrim in you
One must be comfortable
with pilgrimhood
before one’s feet can touch the homeland.

Do you want to go home?
There’s a road that runs
straight through your heart.
Walk on it.

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