The weather being generally kinder this time of year, pilgrimages to Enlli from Basingwerk are beginning. From the Abbey at Greenfield they will walk the 133 miles in company of all who choose to gather with them. Those who walk the full distance will end the journey as friends. I’ve walked parts of this journey, time for the full one has eluded me as yet. Over the last three years i’ve offered hospitality both here at Llanasa with morning prayers and sweet ‘bread for the journey’ and also in Fachwen with tea and cake. Pilgrimage is something far different than a ramble or a good walk. It is a journey like no other. Listening to the stories of the pilgrims when they walk in the company of ramblers is interesting. There is a marked difference – not that there is anything wrong with rambling, but to ramble along a pilgrimage is almost to go with your eyes shut. Pilgrims are content to walk a day’s journey. Ramblers are always looking for the next challenge or back to the last conquest. Pilgrims walk at a slowish pace with plenty of time for contemplation. Ramblers seem to have a target in mind. Pilgrims, although setting off at a particular time, will walk when they are ready, and often after prayer. Ramblers are keen to be on the road. I’m not a lover of golf and always have a rye smile when I hear the phrase of it – a good walk spoiled. Perhaps Pilgriming is as Golf to ramblers. For me there always has to be time to take an interest in what is around and an interest in each other on the way.
This is my commandment says Jesus: Love one another as I have loved you. And Jesus goes on to suggest that there is no greater love than that of one who lays down his life for a friend. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry we have the summary of the law in two easy commandments and we have heard that already in our service. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. Love your neighbour as yourself. However here is Jesus’ new commandment. He has taken the ‘love of neighbour’ to a new level. No longer love your neighbour as you love yourself, but love one another as I have loved you. Model your relationships on mine, says Jesus. Rather than ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’ with which we might escape with a multitude of transgressions, no, love one another as I have loved you. here there is no escape for idleness in regard for our neighbour. If you really want to get to know someone – walk a mile in their shoes.
Pilgrimage is a way to lay down your life – not so that you don’t return – that really would be quite a drastic and literal journey to the island of 20,000 saints as Enlli is known. However, laying down your life as setting it aside. Self emptying, or to use the language of the spiritual discipline: kenosis. When we walk on pilgrimage we lay aside our life and take on another. Who we are takes a back seat and the journey becomes us. It is hard to explain. So I’m going to invite you to join us. You can of course begin the Journey to Enlli at any time, however there are two groups of pilgrims on the North Wales Pilgrim’s way as we speak. You can join them just for the day if you so wish. Or join them virtually in prayer – praying for each stage of the way on each day. And you can join us on the occasion of our next joint service which will walk from the Abbey to Llanasa. Not Basingwerk, but the Bells of St. Mary’s camp site. We will begin with people from the parish of St. Thomas, Mellor and our journey will end with a special joint pilgrimage service and shared lunch. We will begin as people on a shared journey and end it as friends. As we walk together we lay down our life and take on the life that Jesus gave to us in order to follow in his command: to love one another.