|"Christmas Eve Pilgrimage," 5 x 7 #watercolor card|
Where do you take or make pilgrimages to?
Isn't it interesting that in our sedentary lives where we think we own property, and indeed revel in it and are perhaps owned by it instead, forgetting that we're all pilgrims, we still make pilgrimages?
We see that especially at Christmas time, whether to family reunions or for religious purposes on Christmas eve.
People of many different faiths make hundreds of pilgrimages a year to religious sites or down sacred trails.
Maybe it is deep inside us that we know we are not permanent, in spite of our best attempts to hold on to time. Maybe it is because we are all seeking something better. Maybe it is because our spiritual ancestors--Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddist Kukai, and more made pilgrimages.
Pilgrimages have many different levels, not just a physical or spiritual journey, but a metaphor for life itself. They've fired the imagination of writers (Canterbury Tales, The Grapes of Wrath) and artists, influenced landscapes, been important in history, architecture, society.
Some pilgrimages are tainted with tragedy--The Crusades, The Trail of Tears, immigrants trying to escape poverty and tear gassed at our borders. Others with exploration, The Mormon Trail, or with greed, The Gold Rushes, The Santa Fe Trail.
Pilgrimage is much alive today in repeated travels of all faiths and none, exploring the importance of place and journey, or merely traditional travels to specific places and times.
Perhaps we are less fortunate than Abraham, and his offspring, both by Sarah and by Hagar, who knew they were always aliens, strangers, because they lived in tents, and moved them a lot,
"By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob...."--Hebrews 11:9
By the way, the reason the English settlers called themselves "Pilgrims" was because their early versions of the Bible used the word in Hebrews 11:13. If they'd had a modern version they'd used a different word.
One of my pilgrimages is through dictionaries looking for word origins.
"Pilgrim" as made a long pilgrimage as a word.
"Pilgrim" was first used about 1200 A.D. as pilegrim, from Old French pelerin, peregrin-- "pilgrim, crusader; foreigner, stranger," from Late Latin pelegrinus, fromperegrinus, "foreigner" (source of Italian pellegrino, Spanish peregrino), from peregre, "from abroad," from per- "beyond" + agri, "country, land," from the Proto-Indo-European root *agro "field." The change of the "r" to "l"in most Romance languages appears to be a Germanic modification.
It can describe a traveller making a brief journey to a particular place or someone settling for a short or long period in a foreign land. Peregrinatio was the state of being or living abroad.
Peregrinus was also used in the Vulgate version of the Bible to translate the Hebrew gur (sojourner) and the Greek parepidemos (temporary resident). These terms undergirded a central image of the Christian life. Christians were identified as temporary residents in this world whose true home was in heaven.
I know, more than you want to know. But as I've undertaken this annual journey of daily watercolor Christmas cards, the trip has evolved into a pilgrimage of words.
My pilgrimages increasing head for New Mexico, where on Christmas eve, tonight, hundreds of devout parishioners will make their own pilgrimages to iconic adobe mission churches.
These thoughts, these watercolors, help make me aware that I am a pilgrim, a stranger in a strange land.