Hearts on Pilgrimage – The Journey of the Heart in pursuit of God!


When Isaiah says in chapter 45:15: “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Saviour of Israel” he implies for us that God is to be sought out and found! Indeed he says to Israel ”I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right”(v19). So the promise for us here is that whenever we seek God with a true and sincere heart, He will be found by us as Jeremiah confirms in chapter 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” This pilgrimage of the heart is then, a journey of seeking after the God who is ready and willing to be found by us.


We must be careful however that our seeking of God must not be motivated by a sense of duty but rather arise from a sense of longing. The man of faith understands that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”(Hebrews 11:6). Our pursuit of God is motivated by deep longing so that like the Psalmist we cry: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”(Psalm 42:1,2)



This seeking after God may be described as “hearts on pilgrimage”. In the Celtic tradition pilgrimage (or the journey) is primarily interior rather than exterior. It is taken up by an inner constraint and passionate longing for God. It is undertaken with a desire to put Christ first and at the centre of life. The Celtic Christian understood that Christ was not at the end of the journey, he was with us on the journey also, for “I shall not find Christ at the end of my journey unless he accompanies me along the way” (1).



Calvin Miller explains this further in “The path of Celtic Prayer” stating that: “The life of pilgrimage praying isn’t merely punctuated by prayer. The pilgrimage is the prayer. The peregrine (The Celtic name for the pilgrim) weren’t going somewhere to pray, they were praying as they went, wherever they went. They were pilgrims without a shrine. Life wasn’t a destination. Life was the journey. They never really “arrived,” so they never stopped praying”. And to help them on their way Columbanus offered this practical advice: “Therefore let this principle abide with us that on the road we live as travellers, as pilgrims, as guests of the world…singing with grace and power “when shall I come and appear before the face of God” (2).


So let us today take to heart this concept of “Hearts on Pilgrimage”. Endeavouring to walk the road mapped out for us with Christ as our constant companion! And let us take heart from the Scriptures which say: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage”(Psalm 84:5).


A PRAYER FOR THOSE ON PILGRIMAGE


Come on pilgrimage.

Let us walk together

the road of life.

We will go on

well trodden paths,

and also open us new ways.

We will seek,

we will search,

we will rejoice,

and perhaps we will sing.


You cannot come as an onlooker,

that leaves you on the outside,

yet still influencing us,

as we influence you.

Come and share your experiences,

your sorrows and your joys.

If your prayer has gone dead,

your God is too small,

your vision too narrow,

Come journey into new depths,

let life be an adventure.


Come and participate,

come and discover –

we will go to

strange places,

we may even meet dragons.

But we do not journey alone

we go together

along the road

and our God goes with us.


(David Adam in The Road of Life: Reflections on Searching and Longing).


Notes:

(1). The Celtic Way of Prayer: p.9.

(2). The path of Celtic Prayer. p. 79.

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