update 24 September 2015
Today is Yom Kippur, the culmination of the 10 Days of Awe in Judaism that began on Rosh Hashanah, the start of the New Year. While I identify as a Christian, for the past several years I’ve come to observe Rosh Hashanah (in admittedly limited way) and its opportunity for reflection over the ensuing 10 days. I’ve watched the livestream of a Rosh Hashanah service at a local temple, listened to the shofar, and participated in 10Q, a series of reflective questions to prepare you for Yom Kippur & get you off to the right start in the New Year. This year I read daily reflections during Elul, another time devoted to reflection & renewal coming into the New Year. Through the time of doing 10Q this year, I kept thinking back to how this Living Mysteria project began almost a year ago, and how I have this affinity for these High Holy Days. Where is my affinity come from? I think one aspect is hearing recognizable Scripture and wanting to explore how another religion interprets that text. Another aspect is my curiosity for learning how other people connect with the Divine. I’ve always been intrigued by this. I love talking to people about their faith, about their rituals, about the things that help them Believe. I especially love hearing people talk of how an experience of worship in tradition other than their own helped them make a connection they didn’t even know was possible because the vocabulary or the symbols just made sense to what they already knew of the Divine.
At the same time, I was making observations – how a child who is Jewish doesn’t want to miss school for services in the school district that doesn’t close for the Holy Days; how I am able to watch the Rosh Hashanah service because my office is closed, but in a different office, I’d be required to take the day off. I read an article about how Muslim families hope for Eid al-Adha to be included in the list of school closings because while their children can legally miss school for the Holy Day, they must make up the work, and many prefer not to do that. And then, of course, are those moments when someone says “Happy Yom Kippur!” (In general, I try not to hold people accountable for knowledge that they’ve not been taught, but I wonder if that is sufficient when it comes to knowledge specifically about other cultures and religions.)
And so, I’m coming to this, a re-evaluation of Living Mysteria. I think at the moment it looks like this: an exploration of living life with the touchstones of faith. It is necessarily Interfaith & Ecumenical, an opportunity to share stories & ideas of how we live into the Mysteries not just of Christ through the liturgical year, but also those myriad observances across the multitudes of faith experiences that help us connect with something bigger than ourselves and with one another. The ritual of the kitchen is as powerful as the sanctuary, I think, so who knows what wonders we might uncover as we offer to one another the things that make life Holy for us.
30 November 2014 — First Sunday of Advent
For a few years now, I’ve been fascinated by two things: the liturgical year and pilgrimage. To be honest, I’ve always loved the liturgical year with the changing colors and rotating readings. The idea of pilgrimage is something newer to me, that I’ve been toeing around for awhile, but never really engaging. Pilgrimage was a word I associated mostly with going to Israel for a tour or visiting a famous site associated with the Blessed Virgin, like Lourdes, Fatima or Medjugorge.
This past summer, I was watching The Way (for the millionth time), I began thinking about pilgrimage again. I read several books about people’s experiences on the Camino. Because of chronic health issues, something like the Camino or any long, walking-based pilgrimage feels beyond me. What about pilgrimage for me? How do people like me become pilgrims?
My instinct told me I was already a pilgrim. I was on a lifelong journey, after all. I had enjoyed community, had transformative experiences, could point to specific moments that acted as waypoints. But how could I engage pilgrimage with intentionality?
As summer waned, a friend who teaches theology posted on Facebook that she would be offering an online course in The Theology of Pilgrimage through her seminary’s continuing education program. Serendipity? Grace? Perhaps both. I signed up.
And so here I am, several weeks later, having done the coursework, and always in my mind asking the question of what makes a pilgrimage a pilgrimage. Certainly, Transformation is a key component. My instructor notes that Place and Path are also key. But how does someone who may be limited in mobility or by lack of funds or time engage a pilgrimage? What other options are available?
A little niggling nudgy thing seem to be ruminating in my mind. The liturgical year, beginning at Advent, provided a framework for a pilgrimage. Perhaps Place and Path are the waypoints (Sabbaths, Holy Days, Seasons) and rituals (worship, spiritual disciplines, activities) that provide entry points and guide us along the way. Perhaps, just perhaps, I had found my pilgrimage.