The Journey of Lent

One last Lent-specific post for the week.  From a recent essay from the folks at Public Discourse:

In important ways, both the story of Jesus’ tempting by Satan and the season of Lent evoke the traditional Christian practice of pilgrimage. Pilgrimages are spiritual journeys in which we leave behind comforts, incur costs, face difficulties, and endure disciplines. Christians undertake pilgrimages to encounter God in a more direct way—traditionally, at a holy place related to the events of the Gospels, or to the life of a saint.

Santiago-Shell-and-PilgrimsWhat follows in the essay is a nice distilling of some aspects of the Christian journey that seasons like Lent can help clarify for us.  Beyond that, props to the writer for bringing in Tolkien and Lewis.  I like the essay’s first point quite a bit:

First, the Christian life is aptly described as pilgrimage, because it is more appropriately understood as a story than as the acceptance of a philosophy. We Christians move through time, journeying toward the holy goal of glorifying God and enjoying him forever. Along the way, we experience trials, discomforts, disciplines, camaraderie, conflicts, highs, and lows.

Yet the analogy extends further: not only is the life of each Christian a story, but so is Christianity itself. Christianity is the story of God coming to earth as a first-century Jew from Nazareth, living among us, dying, rising, and redeeming us. This story of salvation through Christ is part of the larger, cosmic story that runs from creation to new creation: a purposeful story with a beginning, a middle, and an end . . .

This is one of the things that modernist forms of Christian faith—whether liberal or fundamentalist—have gotten most disastrously wrong. Inasmuch as modern Christians have framed faith as cognitive assent to an ethic (whether social or personal) or a science (whether Darwinist or Biblicist), they have made Christianity a thing of conventional knowledge and fidelity to rules rather than personal knowledge and loyalty to God. The Lenten practice of prayer draws us back from such inadequate, intellectualized, legalized understandings to faith as it really is: intimate connection to our Creator and Redeemer.

It’s such an interesting conundrum: this weird relationship between the cognitive  and the personal.  I see it tweaked and twisted in multiple ways, almost like no one can understand a middle way that embraces both ends well.  Perhaps that is something to wrestle with during this season, too, as we journey together.

(image of the Camino de Santiago from

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