During the first lockdown, I went on a lot of journeys. All of them, however, were via Google Earth. I’d engage the ‘street view’ function and wander down highways in Central Africa, or rural byways in northern Canada, or spin the globe and travel wherever chance took me.
But travelling virtually is not a modern idea; pilgrimages of the imagination are an ancient Christian practice — journeys are arranged in Scripture to tie together key ideas, and there is a long medieval tradition of virtual pilgrimages for those unable to attend in person. Sadly this year in Jerusalem many will have to do the same, as the government has severely curtailed the numbers of those allowed to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Holy Saturday and Easter.
Our gospels are all about journeying with Jesus, nearly every moment of his ministry being tied to a particular place, and each of the gospels arranges Jesus’ itinerary differently — in fact, John’s Gospel is unique in having Jesus visit Jerusalem four times in his adult ministry, rather than just the one, final journey in the synoptic gospels. But here in Holy Week, we join with Jesus and his disciples in that final and first, heart-breaking and glorious pilgrimage.
The Paschal Triduum shifts that journey of Jesus from the macro scale, wandering through Galilee and beyond, to the micro scale — an upper room, the Temple court, Pilate’s residence, Gethsemane, and at last the tomb. But even as the geography shrinks down, the spiritual journey of these holy days is enormous, a scale of Love beyond our understanding.
At the Easter Vigil we will hear about the women at the tomb — whom Luke introduces as "The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee.” Their own journey, and their presence in Jerusalem as outsiders, is Luke’s invitation to us as well. With Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women, we too are invited to journey with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, and from dark Gethsemane to the brilliance of the Empty Tomb. Whether you are joining us in church or online, in these three holy days get ready for a journey which changed the whole cosmos.