A Sacred Pilgrimage

We had our monthly JCMA Text Group meeting today. Sometimes we choose a genre to focus on, and sometimes a theme. Today was on the theme of “Journey”, as a number of members of our group (including myself as SCE blog readers will know) had been travelling. I chose J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem “The Road goes ever on and on”, and included Michael Leunig’s “How to get there”.

Helen brought along a poem that is included in the Union of Progressive Judaism prayer book by Rabbi Alvin Fine, “Birth is a beginning”. It is read in Progressive synagogues at the Yom Kippur evening service. It seemed to encapsulate a great deal of my own reflections on pilgrimage and living life as a pilgrimage. I reproduce it here:

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey:

From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps, to wisdom;

From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness –
And, often, back again;

From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;

From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,

From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding –
From fear to faith;

From defeat to defeat to defeat –
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage –
To life everlasting.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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2 Responses to A Sacred Pilgrimage

  1. matthias says:

    Great poem. I reckon if a certain overseas born gentleman,now living out here, who has his own blog sees this he will take aim at you again and call you a syncretist,as he did last time when you wrote about JCMA some years ago, and i had great joy in standing up for you-since you sponsored me into the Church!! As a Baptist minister i know said to me in reference to this chap, it must be tiring being angry all the time.

  2. Schütz says:

    The Jews in our group asked if this was a poem that Christians could embrace. I answered “Yes”, on the basis that it was based on the Judeo-Christian view of Time as linear with a beginning and a destination. Moreover that last line can be seen as affirming of the resurrection. I read it today to an elderly Anglican priest whom I visited in her nursing home. We have been friends for almost 25 years. It is sad to see her declining because of dementia. But she responded to this poem with tears saying it was so true. She asked me to write it out for her so that she could reread it again. I would be happy for this to be read at my funeral.

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