Note: This is a piece I began working on back in the Summer. At present the temperature is 32 degrees in Memphis. That actually feels pretty warm all things considered from the last week or so. The temperature right now in Lhasa, Tibet is 36 degrees. Go figure.
An old friend from my collage days introduced me to Abbott Tryphon and his wisdom. Check him out at his blog: http://www.morningoffering.blogspot.com/ or at his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/All-Merciful-Saviour-Orthodox-Christian-Monastery
Some things just seem “hard-wired” in humans. Prayer is not unique to any religion it is human. Such things need not be explained as they just are. I believe that the ancient practices of the Christian experience reflect such deep human “wiring” and if not expressed in a soulful way will be invented in an unconscious and less satisfying way.
Mid-August is the end of the Summer vacation cycle other than Labor Day. I find that most people find vacations on the whole unsatisfying, a cycle of frenzy preparing, rushing to arrive, and frantic playing (in order to get our money’s worth), punctuated by exhaustion. Return to work is almost welcome. My guess is that vacation is a secular pilgrimage, but one without soul.
Abbot Tryphon introduced me to a work by Gregory of Nyssa that I have not read. In On Pilgrimage, Gregory reflects on sacred journey and what about it makes it holy. It is not what we might think. It is a long passage but worth the time. This is not junk food for the soul.
“We confessed that the Christ Who was manifested is very God, as much before as after our travel to Jerusalem; our faith in God was not increased afterwards any more than it was diminished. Before we saw Bethlehem we knew God made man by means of the Virgin; before we saw His grave we believed in His Resurrection from the dead; apart from seeing the Mount of Olives, we confessed that His Ascension into heaven was real. We derived only this much profit from our traveling there: namely that we came to know by being able to compare them, that our own places are far holier than those abroad.
Wherefore, you who fear the Lord, praise Him in the places where you now are. Change of place does not effect any drawing nearer to God, but wherever you may be, God will come to you, if the chambers of your soul be found of such a sort that He can dwell in you and walk in you. But if you keep your inner man full of wicked thoughts, even if you were on Golgotha, even if you were on the Mount of Olives, even if you stood on the memorial-rock of the Resurrection, you will be as far away from receiving Christ into yourself, as one who has not even begun to confess Him.” Saint Gregory of Nyssa – On Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage is one of the ancient practices that Christians found compelling in seeking to know God. The real journey is in the human heart. The dislocation of moving across geography disrupts the routine and tyranny of the immediate. Meister Eckhart once wrote, “Man’s best chance of finding God is to look in the place where he left him.” Sometimes we have to leave town in order to recall exactly where that is.