Sunday, October 17, 2010
Pilgrimage and Prayer III: Sabbath
A third symmetry between pilgrimage and prayer is Sabbath. My friend Jan Ruud hinted at this: "You walk your own Camino." I thought this was just another Camino koan. We'd heard a lot of this stuff from Camino-heads in our acquaintance. Then mid-way through our first week, we hit the wall. We'd been following John Brierley's wonderful book, "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago," which laid out the route in daily chunks: one day 21.1 km, the next 27.7 km, the next 24.8 km -- and by the fourth day, we were foot-weary, discouraged, and driven to reach Brierley's daily destination.
Then it struck me: we weren't walking our own Camino. We were walking John Brierley's. His pace was clearly too fast for us -- and he didn't leave any room to rest. We needed Sabbath.
That day we stopped 9km before Brierley recommended, found a B&B, showered, and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch. We waved to pilgrims forging ahead. This was our sabbath; it didn't need to be theirs. From then on, we walked in sabbath-time.
When we got tired, we'd find a village, put our feet up at a cafe, and let the air blow through our blisters. Sabbath.
Or we'd plan a short day of walking by design and spend the rest of the afternoon doing laundry. Sabbath.
One day we took off entirely, shedding pilgrim habits to become tourists and poke around the intricate Knights Templar castle in Ponferrada. Sabbath.
We observed mini-sabbaths along the way, stopping for no less than 45 minutes to savor a cafe con leche each morning after a couple of hours of walking. By that time we needed an extended period of "horizontality," as Lisa put it.
Prayer creates its own sabbath. It's not a performance sport, as a lot of "how-to" self-help guides lead one to believe. Rather, prayer is a way of leaning into the Lord. Prayer invites the traveler on the inward journey to rest in God, or as Brother Lawrence, a 17th Century French lay brother put it, "practice the presence of God." This practice is more receptive than productive. Rest allows the soul to receive.
One way to shed the urge for production and performance is to simply let the words of Psalm 46:10, wash over you, until there is nothing left but silence.
"Be still and know that I am God."
"Be still and know that I am."
"Be still and know."
The silence holds everything.