A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Pilgrims on the Prowl

(As evidenced by my post titles, I am a huge fan of alliteration. I’m so sorry for this incredi-lameness.)

On behalf of the group, I want to apologize for the lack of blog posts for our devoted readers (and spammers — I’m lookin’ at you, “Financial & Investment Management Advisors…” ). We’ve just returned from a three day trek to northern Israel, filled with sunbathing and, of course, lots of archaeological stuff. There was, however, an astonishing lack of mikvehs! Those Romans were so impure…

The theme of this excursion was the development of Jerusalem as the Holy City. We visited sites important to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. What makes Jerusalem so stinkin’ special? The temple plays a large role in that imagery within Judaism, of course. But what really puzzles me is the whole notion of pilgrimages.

Why is hajj one of the pillars of Islam? Why did Egeria feel the need to visit Christian sites in the 4th century? And why, oh, WHY do we keep passing hordes of Catholics carrying the cross down the Via Dolorosa?

Our guard had an interesting (but depressing and unsatisfying) explanation — the sites were created to bring in that sweet, sweet tourist moolah. Dr. Mourad discussed relatively recent boost in pilgrimages due to the expanded travel capability of the masses. But that doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter for me. There are churches, shrines, and holy sites all over the world. Religious tourism is a booming business. But WHY is that travel such an integral part of one’s religious experience? Can seeing the place where Jesus supposedly gave the Sermon on the Mount really improve one’s spiritual experience?

My hypothesis is rather cynical…I think spirituality and faith in the unknown are such difficult concepts to grasp. Is it really realistic for anyone to follow the advice of a nice Jewish man who lived over two thousand years ago? Doubt clouds our minds, “real life” and responsibilities distract from the demands of faith, and it becomes easy for one to place religion on a shelf.

For the truly devoted believer, a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem brings a whole new level of realness to the faith experience. To see place one’s hand on the footprint of Mohammad or to pray at the Western Wall gives substance to what would otherwise only be a mental and spiritual experience. The physicality of the pilgrimage — following in the footsteps of the founders of a faith (there’s that alliteration again) — can be a sort of spiritual high.

In that old Disney movie The Santa Clause, one cute little elf said, “Seeing isn’t believing; believing is seeing.” Yet for many who make a pilgrimage, seeing is an integral part of believing.


Comments are closed.