Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Long Way Home

When you think of a pilgrimage, you only ever think about where you're going, and the journey there. Nobody every thinks about the journey back. The pilgrims at the Tabarb were on their way to Canterbury when they met up. Frodo took two and a half books to get to Mordor, and about five pages to get back again. The Magi saw a star - followed it - detoured to Jerusalem - found their way to Bethlehem - bowed down and worshipped - and then "having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road."

Half a sentence to cover the journey home. It would be no less distance, going back. No less arduous - a little lighter on their animals, I suppose, what with the treasure chests having been depleted - money for their food and lodgings, gold for the baby. Incense doesn't weigh too much, of course. But, ahead of them, no star.

And how would they feel on the long way home? Confused, perhaps - they've seen a child in a scruffy house with his parents, not a king in a palace surrounded by flunkies. Enlightened, maybe - they've seen God on Earth, God-with-us - a living demonstration of the Creator's love for his world.  Or else empty; deflated. The magic has gone. The moment has passed. They've glimpsed the face of - well, of what exactly? They've left their gifts and they're going back to live out their lives far away.

We'll never know this side of glory, but the point of a pilgrimage is to come home changed. Let's hope - for they made great sacrifices - it was for the better.


  1. Lovely, Eileen. I'm remembering Eliot's Journey of the Magi - at the end, he says: We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods.

  2. I suppose a labyrinth is a bit like a pilgrimage: you wind your way into the centre, shedding things which hinder you and anticipating where ou're going, and then wind out again by a different route contemplating how you and your attitudes have changed.

    1. I was sad to see that the labyrinth in Ely Cathedral had a notice suggesting that after walking prayerfully to the Centre you should simply step straight out instead of following the path again. Who thought that was a good idea?!

  3. I totally agree. We return home as different persons because we've experienced life itself that changes as Heraclitus' river. The point also is to convert to God spiritually. See, that's what's for me a conversion -etimologically and truly speaking. To turn your face and thoughts and spirit upwards to God. You don't do it for good once in a lifetime and become catholic or muslim. You do it from time to time when you remember we're more than flesh and earthly pleasures. I liked your post. I came by it thanks to a Chris Fewings' tweet. A very good friend of mine. Greetings from Argentina! Lucas


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