Chapter 1: The Wicklow Gap A Crossing Place

9th December 2019

I am a Pilgrim in this Earth

In the Wicklow Mountains, the main road from east to west passes through a dip between two hills called the Wicklow Gap.  Beside the road and a car park there is a remnant of an old road known as St. Kevin’s Road. It was created by people long ago who placed large granite stones together on the ground, making a rough pavement over a soft boggy area.  It is an ideal place for a modern day pilgrim to begin a pilgrimage to Glendalough. Here the pilgrim can stand and look back at the journey already travelled and look forward to the road that lies ahead.  The footprints and spirits of a pilgrim people are here making their way to and from the ancient holy ground of Glendalough.

A pilgrim is essentially a traveller asking questions, seeking help and getting directions to continue on the right path.  It is an experience in the here and now moments of reality and discovery. The pilgrim may find their way alone or in the company of others.  The next step forward is always the most immediate focus of attention. The journey behind is finished and has become a valuable source of experience. The road ahead is all that matters now.   The destination is somewhere in the future.

Standing at the Wicklow Gap looking at the vast expanse of countryside all around, the only conclusion is that creation in all its detail, variety, beauty and diversity is an extraordinary blessing.  The original imprint of God’s creative hand is seen everywhere and in everything that exists.  St. Thomas Aquinas reflected on it with these words: “God cannot express himself fully in any one creature: and so he has produced many and diverse life forms, so that what one lacks in its expression of divine goodness may be compensated for by others: for goodness which in God is single and undifferentiated, in creatures is refracted into a myriad hues of being.”

Journey questions automatically arise from deep within the earth itself and from the heart of the pilgrim spirit.  Who am I?  Where have I come from?  How did I get here?  Why am I here? What am I looking for? What does the future hold for me?  Who is God? Where is God? Where can I meet God or where does God find me?

Each person will have their own answer to these questions because everyone is a unique revelation of God’s creation with a remarkable story of their own to tell. Together we are pilgrims on the one sacred journey of life with our feet firmly planted on holy ground. We come through the earth which is made up of interdependent, interconnecting and interacting systems.  If we fail to understand this reality, we are in serious danger of losing our way and the meaning of our existence.  As human beings, we are always responding to the call of life which is in a process of growing and expanding through frequent change and transformation.

The human being is first and foremost a spiritual being.  It is our spirit that guided us along the road we have travelled and urges us forward to reach out to a destination that often seems unreachable and impossible. This spirit finds expression in the faith story. Since human beings arrived at a conscious state they’ve had a sense that there is something beyond this here and now moment that has yet to be revealed or expressed.   From the beginning of human consciousness people of different traditions have expressed it in different words, images and stories that are gathered under the name of God.

Most people who walked this way of the pilgrim throughout the past centuries have been of the Christian tradition.  The stories tell us that a young Christian called Kevin came over these heights from the west in the sixth century.  He came to live as a hermit in the valley of Glendalough and became the founder of a great monastery there.  He was a follower of Jesus Christ who Christians believe walked this earth like a pilgrim revealing to people that the divine spirit of God coexists in the human experience.  He showed by word and action how that spirit is expressed in human form and how our existence in this life is a sacred experience. The Christian understanding of God is rooted and grounded in love.  Love is the source, it is the way and the fulfilment of all that we long for.  “God looked at everything he had made and found it very good.” Genesis 1: 31

Walk mindfully and with reverence on these pilgrim paths.  They invite you to be true to yourself and be filled with gratitude, anticipation and expectation on every step of the way. Appreciate the privilege of being alive on a sacred journey on this earth.

“When we go into the woods then or into the garden, or up the mountain or walk by the ocean, it is not just to be with nature, or to get ‘away from it all’: it is to be with God through the unfolding of God – a unique cross section of which is the things experienced uniquely in this moment of time, never to be repeated. It is not to get away from it all but to approach it. (John Feehan, Reflections of the presence of God in creation, p. 20)

 

Spiritual Practice

  • Write your story entitled “I am” under different headings including: I am a pilgrim on this earth. I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  I am a child of the universe.
  • Read the story of creation in Genesis Chapter 1
  • Contemplate the Joyful mysteries of the birth and early life of Jesus as told in the opening chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
  • Psalm 8, Psalm 104 and Psalm 19: vv.1 – 7
  • Listen to the words of Enya’s ‘Pilgrim’ song and ‘Trasna’ in the attached CD
  • Read about the 12 principles of the Universe https://catholicclimatemovement.global/twelve-principles-of-universe-by-thomas-berry/