In anticipation of the next Via Divina online pilgrimage, The Harmony Way, pilgrimage director Jamie Noyd will be sharing six spiritual practices of pilgrims over the next weeks beforeÂ The Harmony WayÂ begins on October 14. This is the third in the series. Visit theÂ landing pageÂ forÂ The Harmony WayÂ for more information and to register.
Sacred places and their stories draw us to pilgrimage. Traveling to that place, you become more aware of the other places through which you are walking. Centuries of stories inhabit these sacred places. On journeys when we summit Croagh Patrick and look out over Clew Bay in Ireland, or walk up Mt. Subasio to reach the caves above Assisi in Italy, each pilgrim experiences something different. Most relate how being in that place â€“ both the physical creation and the stories – invited them into a fresh experience with God. Not that God was in that place any more than when we are sitting in our offices. Yet, in those places people seem to become more attuned to Godâ€™s presence.
However, most of our lives are not lived in such places. What might our daily places have to do with our faith journeys? Beldan Lane writes that â€œThe imaginative work of tying spiritual experience to the constructions of place we inhabit is one of our primary ways of securing meaning in our lives.â€ This reminds me of Jacob when he was forced to leave home because of his and his motherâ€™s deceptions. On the way he lay down to sleep and â€œWhen Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, â€˜Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.â€™ He was afraid and said, â€˜How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.â€™â€ (Genesis 28: 16, 17).
I wonder if we have looked at the places around us deeply enough to recognize Godâ€™s presence.
Earthâ€™s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Aurora Lee, seventh book
In the midst of the rush of the academic calendar, it may be difficult to experience the stories of place. Yet, ask yourself: Where have you experienced Godâ€™s presence on campus? Perhaps thereâ€™s a green space that speaks to your soul as you walk to the library. Maybe thereâ€™s a bench outside your building where you had a meaningful conversation with a colleague. As you look at the places where you regularly walk, start to recognize more places that hold stories resonating with Godâ€™s story.
Where have you have felt Godâ€™s presence?
Beldan Lane, Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality, 2002
Previous posts in this series: