Brian E Pearson
Food for the Journey
What sustains us along the Unknown Path? Friends do, we've said, a community that supports us in the soulful and often lonely work we are each called to do. But what else will nourish us on our way?
Jesus and his disciples shared a common heritage, as Jews. This provided them with both words and rituals that fed them on their journey. The Law and the Prophets were quoted frequently along the way, to settle questions and close debates. Among other observances, Jesus and his disciples also shared the chaburah, a weekly ritual that was to become the inspiration for the Eucharist. Words and rituals.
This was another way Jesus was joined in his work. He travelled under the watchful eye of his ancestors, whose wisdom he consulted and whose practices he appropriated for his own use. But he wasn't slavish in his obeisance to them. The Hebrew Scriptures were stretched at times, once to defend his disciples eating grain on the sabbath; and the temple and its rituals Jesus understood as being only temporary, symbols of God's presence that, in themselves, wouldn't last. In other words, Jesus knew the Jewish tradition, with its Scriptures and its practices, but he interpreted them to shine light on his own path.
Early Christians shared the rich heritage of the Jewish tradition, and then embellished it with words and rituals from their own experience. They saw themselves building on the foundation bequeathed to them as Jews, not departing from it. This new way, they felt, was where the God of the Exodus and the God of the Exile was leading them now. They followed, faithful to a tradition that honoured the journey.
As we consider our travelling companions on the spiritual journey, does this include our elders, the living and the dead, who have been this way before? What ancient words inspire us with the wisdom of the ages? What time-honoured rituals root our journey theirs? Not words to be taken literally, as laws; not rituals to be followed to the letter, as rules. But an ongoing conversation with those who've gone before.
A few weeks back I wrote about being called out by some old friends for hubris. I bristled at the thought. I don't feel I'm dismissing what generations before me knew about the spiritual journey. Indeed, I'm trying to rediscover it, for my own time. I need their company so I can stop along the way, reflect upon the journey, and receive strength for the road ahead. Because I know, I'm not the first to walk it.
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