“If your journey is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous. Ancient wisdom suggests if you aren't trembling as you approach the sacred, it isn't the real thing. The sacred, in its various guises as holy ground, art, or knowledge, evokes emotion and commotion.” Phil Cousineau in The Art of Pilgrimage
Although I use vacation days to travel each year to New Mexico during Advent, my traveling companion and I have journeyed to this holy place for over fifteen Decembers, and it has become more of a pilgrimage than a vacation.
I've traveled this year with a heart full of grief. The gift of serving in a parish for seventeen years is the deep relationships that are formed within the parish.
But with the gift comes great sorrow when those we love die. Since I came here last year, three children of St. Mary's have died, and before I left we celebrated the Burial Eucharist of a longtime parishioner.
As God would have it, last evening one of the precious friends I visit each year in Taos told me that this past June she was diagnosed with cancer and has but a few months to live.
We stood in her studio as the light of the day dimmed towards night, and we talked about dying and death. About heaven. About walking with those she'll leave behind for but a while in these final earth days. It was holy time.
This morning, as my traveling friend and I were planning our day, she unexpectedly showed up. We spent the morning in our casita in front of the fire chatting. There was nothing more important to do today than that time to be together. It was holy once again.
Christine Valters Paintner says it better than I:
The pilgrim is not going on a vacation to relax and unwind from the stresses of daily living. Each moment brings a new invitation. Can we stay present enough to see what is actually showing up in this moment rather than being attached to how we want things to be?
So this day continues. A lovely walk to town for my daily meal of cheese enchiladas. This afternoon a little arts and crafts. Tonight another friend will gather round our table for conversation and meal.
Unless the pilgrim's Advent path takes us somewhere else.
I'm an Episcopal priest serving as rector in the Diocese of Texas. My daughter lives in New York City and has published her second book. My son lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife and their two sons who call me Grandma Texas.