Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Well Said: The One Who Says "Come and See" to Pilgrims

Antoine Lafréry, Visit to the Seven Churches of Rome, 1575
This image of pilgrims going from one church to another highlights an important connection: that between prayer and visibility. Every journey undertaken in a spirit of prayer leads in fact to something visible: a mountain, a grotto, a temple, seven churches. On arrival, the pilgrim's experience is structured through rites nicely calculated to satisfy his desire to see something: processions, the exhibiting of relics, the veneration of images. Interesting, in this respect, the language used by the Florentine Giovanni Villani, present in Rome in 1300 for the first Jubilee, who tells us that "for the consolation of Christian pilgrims, every Friday and solemn feast day, the Veil of Veronica was exhibited" — the veil bearing the imprint of Christ's face, that is. But this rite served for "the consolation of Christian pilgrims," because human beings yearn to see God and are thus consoled in seeing his image. That is the connection: images presented to pilgrims at journey's end console them. Like the first disciples, pilgrims set out in response to One who says, "Come and see" (John 1:39a), and in Veonica's Veil or some other relic—as in the architecture and art they find on reaching their destination—they contemplate his face and behold his abode under the form of images.
Timothy Verdon, Art & Prayer
I never thought about the images at the end of the pilgrimage as being the "consolation of pilgrims." Or about connecting the end of the trip to the invitation to "Come and see." This is something I must reflect upon.

Of course, I am drawn right now to pilgrimage meditations because of the proposed pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Diana Von Glahn, The Faithful Traveler. We can't go if enough people don't go with us. Perhaps that is also the consolation of the pilgrim? Fellow travelers on the way? I know that often it takes someone else to point out what should be blindingly obvious to me. If you think you might be interested in journeying to "Come and see" the Holy Land, check out the link. And sign up!

After yesterday's horrific attacks in Jerusalem I almost removed this post which I had prepared yesterday. However, Diana got a note from a friend there who said that they need the tourism trade and that pilgrims are generally safe. This made me think about pilgrims through the centuries who we often forget braved physical danger in their quest to see where Jesus walked. And it puts me in touch with them in a more real way than ever...

1 comment:

  1. I have wondered a great deal about pilgrimages, and I'm enjoying your exploration of the subject. We went to Italy last year, and considered ourselves pilgrims in Rome (visited the 4 major basilicas) and in Cortona, where we climbed to the basilica there to give thanks to Santa Margherita for a miracle in our lives. Also Assisi.

    Although we drank in the art and appreciated the amazing relics, it was always the Blessed Sacrament that was our consolation. The one church where we were NOT allowed to pray (St. Peter's in Rome) after waiting over an hour to enter, we left in tears, angry and betrayed that the tourists could see what they wanted to, but that pilgrims were denied the purpose of their visit. We hadn't even realized how vital it had been to our other stops and our sense of ourselves as pilgrims until it was denied us.

    All in all a great experience - really made us think about what we were looking for.