Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Shrove Tuesday,  we begin our journey into the season of Lent.  This year will be different for Dave and I, as we will travel through the month in a traditional lenten practice.  We are going on pilgrimage.

We didn't plan a pilgrimage during Lent deliberately.  Sounds strange, I know, especially as we have been in process preparing for this sabbatical time for well over a year.  The reality is,  the fact that we are going on pilgrimage during lent is really a fluke of airline ticketing.  One might even say that there is a sense that some sort of divine comedy is unfolding before us.   We booked our tickets and then a few days later realized that we would be flying during Shrove Tuesday, arriving in Europe on Ash Wednesday.     We travel to Paris, where we will mark Ash Wednesday  at Notre Dame Cathedral. We didn't plan this.  It just, well,  came together like it was all planned for us.                                         (for information about Ash Wednesday services at Notre Dame see:    http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/spip.php?article1795)

 Notre Dame cathedral celebrated 850 years of Christian history in 2013.  The Caminos history as a Christian pilgrimage dates back to the 900's AD.    The path we will walk on through Spain is called the Camino Frances,  an indication both that it begins in France, and is the main route those pilgrims through the centuries who came from France walked.  We will follow a route from Paris via train that millions of pilgrims have travelled, on this journey of faith.    

Perhaps the earliest tourist guide for pilgrims was produced over 1000 years ago, to meet the need for folks like us who needed help finding their way across northern Spain.  Where to stay, what to eat,  who to trust, and what areas were dangerous are included.  The  Codex Calixtinus was mainly a guide for travellers on the pathway under the milky way, across the northern territory of Spain to the burial place of James, son of Zebedee, apostle of Jesus.  Known as St. James,   San Iago,  or St. James Matamoro,   the patron saint of Spain.
( see:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Calixtinus for information about the Codex.)

It is one week until liftoff, so to speak, and I find myself in the middle of a busy life,  with responsibilities and cares relating to family and friends,  wondering how on earth we could possibly be ready to  head to the airport in such a short period of time.   Buying travel insurance,  making sure we get out updated wills signed,  getting a hair cut, seeing the doctor for updated prescriptions and to explore an issue with my arthritis, which has had a flare in the past 10 days.  etc etc etc  Doesn't sound too....well...spiritual.  Indeed,  it seems as if sabbatical and pilgrimage is more of an intrusion into our lives than a 'time set apart' at this point.  Perhaps that is the point.

The old guidebook, the Codex,  isn't much help to me right at the moment.  All I know is that somehow, if I keep on preparing,  and trust that if we make the effort to show up and start walking, somehow,  sabbatical and pilgrimage will sort of creep in, and take over our lives.    "Life is what happens while you are making other plans"....something John Lennon said......  A real pilgrimage is just like life.  It unfolds, both in the physical walking, but also in the preparation, and as we return and take up the threads of our busy lives again.  In many ways, the journey began in 2002, when Dave and I were last in Spain and we dreamt about returning, someday, to walk it all together.  "Someday" is just about here....7 more sleeps.....

Pilgrimage  isn't something you can plan, all neat and tidy like.  And so we have had conversations about 'worst case scenarios', and what we might do if  they came to pass.  Would one of us keep walking if the other got hurt?  The more we have in mind the "right" way to walk 750+ km the less resilient we will be when "life happens".

We have talked and thought and talked again  about all the things that we'd consider "crisis" and having talked about the options we might take (because you never know what you will really do until you are actually in that situation, do you?)  There will be days when we walk separately,  just because with such a long way to walk, you must move as your body will move.   You will get injured, trying to walk at another persons pace, be it too fast or too slow.  You must make friends with your own body, your own level of fitness, your pace, your stride, your feet.  You must accept yourself,  your strength, ability,  pace.   When you do, you will find that you can complete anything you start out to do.  On a pilgrimage, you discover that the journey you walk is often different than the one you set out to take.  But you often, with the divine comedian, discover that the difference in what is lived from what was planned, is more than you could ever have planned, or imagined.  With that thought comes a smile, and perhaps a whisper which sounds like joy-filled laughter....

And so, the countdown has begun.  7 sleeps.  We are beginning the  last stage of preparation for a time of simply following the way.  Modeling our steps on those of our dear companion who has been on this road since the beginning of time.  One who is providing daily evidence that "all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well", as Julian said.    https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/julian/