The times of our 24 HOUR Adoration invite us consider the Pilgrimages and Festivals celebrated in Jerusalem. For Christians, the Pilgrimage is Spiritual, taking us to the New Jerusalem.
Here we focus on the Pentecost Pilgrimage, one of the three Pilgrim feasts that require the adult men of Israel to travel to Jerusalem Deuteronomy 16:16.
“Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me. You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread. As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the prescribed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed. You shall also keep the feast of the grain harvest with the first of the crop that you have sown in the field; and finally, the feast at the fruit harvest at the end of the year….Thrice a year shall all your men appear before the Lord.”
Pentecost was a harvest Festival celebrated 50 days after Passover, when the first loaves of bread from the spring wheat crop were dedicated as first fruits offering to the Lord Leviticus 23.15-17. Over time, theological significance was added to its agricultural focus: Pentecost became a celebration of the Torah given to Israel on Mount Sinai. For Christians, Pentecost celebrates the new law of the spirit (Romans 8:2), written on the hearts of believers (Jeremiah 31:31-34, 2nd Corinthians 3.4-6), which surpasses the law of Moses, inscribed on stone tablets (Exodus 31:18).
Just as Moses went up on the mountain and received the two tablets of the law so Jesus ascended into heaven and received from the Father and poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit which is the new law of Love.
This was the mandate for God’s ancient people, the Jews.
They were to be a pilgrim people and for this reason they looked forward to when their God himself would become a pilgrim here on Earth – “when according to the promise, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” John 1:14
Indeed, all of us are pilgrims. We come forth from our mother’s womb and journey our allotted years to our destined end, the grave.
But when our Lord took flesh amongst us, the pilgrimage was undertaken on an infinitely greater stage “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.” John 16:28
So, we who follow him in faith see our life’s journey also as a spiritual pilgrimage, from God and to God. We were a twinkle in God’s eye before the world began. As Saint Paul writes “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” Ephesians 1.4. The Journey begins at our Baptism and ends in the New Heaven and the New Earth. “The holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband – – the home of God amongst mortals.” Revelation 21:1-4
How much greater a vista of our future we have than our spiritual ancestors, the Jews. But we can learn from the songs they sang on the road to the earthly Jerusalem.
Their journeying was no burdensome duty imposed upon them. “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1.
Psalm 84:1-7 seems to sum up the pilgrim’s attitude to life:
The thought of going up to Zion gave them strength for their day-to-day living, “Happy are those who strength is in you, in who’s heart are the highways to Zion, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” Indeed, their life’s journey, even though it be through the valley of Baca (dryness of tears, surely our own experience at this time of Covid). They are inspired to make a place of springs, of blessings. “They journey with the confidence that each will appear before God in Zion.”
Such is the prospect set before each one of us, brothers and sisters, if we continue to set our hearts on pilgrimage. Let today’s pilgrim feast strengthen us in our resolve.
And may this word from the letter to the Hebrews 12:14 be the lode star of our lives,
“Here we have no abiding city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”