As Christian pilgrims, we take the reverence with us. We have a tendency to locate problems outside of ourselves and blame others for our experience and our reactions to them rather than accept responsibility for our own inner work.
We are traveling by small cruise ships north on the Nile, stopping to see holy sites of ancient Egyptians. Today we dock and ride in horse-drawn carriages to Temple Kom Ombo. To enter we must pass through a gauntlet of shops and the aggressive vendors trying to make a living for themselves and their families by selling wares to visitors from other countries. This feels like harassment and tugs at the heartstrings.
Once we have entered the temple, there are masses of guides and tourists competing for space to view the intricate carvings on the walls. It is noisy and could be construed as irreverent, yet I find myself centered in the ancient yearning for the holy and the transcendent that I sense in this sacred space. As I touch the intricate carving of a bird, I imagine the vast numbers of others who have touched and been touched by the beauty here. For me, I find myself in touch with what the Episcopal Church calls the Communion of Saints. I suppose a strict interpretation of the notion would exclude ancient Egyptians and their devotion to ancient gods and goddesses as fellow members of the Communion of Saints; but for me, it includes all humanity aware of the sacred aspect of human life and the life of all creation.
Obviously, my intellectual construct concerning God is as different as my culture, language and world view is different. However, on pilgrimage I believe the gift I bring to ancient holy sites, viewed by most as strictly tourist destinations or historical curiosities, is an inner reverence for the people who once found meaning and spiritual sustenance in these places.
It is not the job of the guide or the leader of the pilgrimage to create a sense of reverence in us. It is our own inner work that opens us to the presence of God that permeates everywhere we go and everyone we meet. Our inner work, our life of prayer, study, service, worship, self-giving, and spiritual reflection are what bring reverence to the places we go. We are the prayer that moves through Kom Ombo as we are here. We are the embodied love of God here. We are the sacrament of Christ consecrating this ancient ruin to the glory of God.
Posted by Julia Ashby