Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Quick Pilgrimage Pt 3 - Shrines of St. Mary's Chapel and Well, Jesmond

As I said in the previous posts, people leave things at holy sites.  They may relate to Jesus and the Saints of the Church.  Or they may relate to people who were important in someone's life, to remember them or to pray for their soul.

Either way, in a sense, everything that is left, from a photograph of a friend or relative through to an intricately constructed grotto to Mary or the largest Calvary representation, is holy.  It's all holy, set apart for a purpose and set apart in terms of someone's relationship with their God.

It's tempting for people to dismiss such piety as an anachronism, a remnant of some pre-scientific day when we didn't understand the universe so well and so lived according to superstition and myth.  Maybe there is a personal God.  Maybe there isn't.  But for me that isn't the point.  All of this is part of our needs and our beings as people.  We need story.  We need remembrance.  And these things enrich our lives greatly as long as we don't become slaves to narrow dogma and a belief that our particular story is the only thing that's true.  Stories can be truth without them being true.  And the truth can enrich us greatly.  Personally I don't believe that any story is the truth.  I believe they are there as powerful symbols, pointing us towards that which is that truth.  The story is not the answer.  Story can be an image, imperfect, incomplete, of the answer.  Or it can be empty - but even then, as an entertaining tale, it has its use.

Yes, people belittle religious story, the myths that drive and drove the great religions and spiritualities of history.  And people who hold rigidly to one story, as I held to one very rigidly, will belittle all the other stories and worse, call them false or lies.  I believe all those stories, even when we might abhor the ancient moral codes in some of them, bear witness to truth.  All the stories came from people glimpsing that which is divine and grasping towards a way of relating what they saw.

The piety shown in the pictures below, from Jesmond, is simple.  It is trusting.  It is full of hope.  I don't follow the story or the belief system they demonstrate.  Not any more.  But that does not make the story any less valid for those who continue to believe and follow.  For me, the story of Jesus is not literal.  The stories told are not historical record.  But they could still point me in metaphor to great truth, to the divine that the early followers of Jesus had in their own way glimpsed.  Whether they actually happened or not does not at this point make much difference to me.

Having so recently walked away from my church I don't disrespect Christianity or the deep, personal faith shown by so many of the Christians I've worshipped with over the years.  This is their way to Spirit.  Right now it isn't mine.  But I believe that beyond story, beyond ritual, beyond doctrine, we seek the same Spirit.

From St. Mary's Chapel:

 From St. Mary's Well:

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