Hallo again to all.
The news this week includes stories about the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to Jerusalem. Last year Pope John Paul II visited there. In the year AD 333, someone known as 'the anonymous pilgrim of Bordeaux' left the oldest surviving written record of such a pilgrimage. Since then, there have been well-documented visits by Egeria, Arculf, Nasir-i-Khusraw, Marco Polo, Henry Timberlake, Lady Stanhope, Mark Twain, and thousands more. Millions more have made the pilgrimage without writing about it, except perhaps to their families. One might even view the Crusades as a form of pilgrimage.
Although the Holy Land vied with Rome and Santiago in the Middle Ages as a top pilgrimage place, Jerusalem took first honours, perhaps partly because Jerusalem represents both the actual and the heavenly, the spiritual centre of the earth.
In the Middle Ages a pilgrimage was often a means of earning merit points to erase sins (think Tannhauser), but surely there were times when pilgrims (albeit mostly those with money) merely wanted to see, walk, sleep, touch, and live amongst the boundaries of the world of Our Lord. If motives were pure, journeys were arduous, vulnerable to thieves and predators, dotted with dirty and overpriced hostels, and subject to the merciless elements of nature. Pilgrims came from farther away than we might realise: a stone in Sweden bears the eleventh-century inscription: 'Estrid had this stone raised for her husband Osten; he went to Jerusalem and died abroad in the land of the Greeks'. For those who could not go the distance, treading labyrinths in cathedrals became a sort of Pilgrimage Lite.
But what is it about an actual visit to the Holy Land that is so eternally magnetic? In about AD 600, a man named Sophronius wrote a poem that included these lines*
In much writing about Jerusalem, the boundaries of earth and heaven become blurred: Jerusalem the blest ... there Our Lady sings Magnificat ... milk and honey ... jewelled streets ... Place? Or dream? Both.
Jerusalem is that country at the end of our earthly pilgrimage. And what better travel guide than Mr Valiant-for-Truth in Pilgrim's Progress? On the day he realises he is to die, he says to his friends:
And there is no better end to a pilgrimage than that.
We are delighted to feature in New This Week more parishes in the USA than you could ever make a pilgrimage to (thanks again to Mimi Bennett-Aronson), a number of interesting reads in Worth Noting, and a scattering of other Anglican-related web sites well worth your time to visit.
We thought briefly about opening this week's letter like this:
and then closing with:
That is the signature of the SirCam virus. We at Anglicans Online were sent more than 100 copies of the SirCam virus last week. Though it didn't infect our computers, we worry that a number of our readers' computers are blighted with this dreadful thing. If you use a PC rather than a Mac, you should check the Symantec or McAfee pages on this virus, even if you think you escaped it.
See you next week.
*Translation by John Wilkinson, from Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades, 1977.
Last updated: 29 July 2001