September 1, 2004
Conversation 2.2: The Spiritual Journey
Volume 2:2 Fall 2004
Kallistos Ware tells of the fourth-century Desert Father and wanderer St. Sarapion the Sindonite. Arriving in Rome on a pilgrimage from Egypt, he was told of a respected recluse who spent all her time in a small room. Sarapion was skeptical of her way of life because it was in such stark contrast to his own. He called on her and asked, “Why are you sitting here?” She replied, “I am not sitting, I am on a journey.”
And so are we. To be a Christian is to be on a journey—a journey of following Christ toward union with God. So much more than simple acceptance of a belief or an offer of attempted compliance with certain prohibitions and commands, Christ-following involves daring to float on the dark river of unseeing that leads to the Kingdom of Light. It demands that we have the courage to set out on a path that is not only narrow, but also far from straight. No matter how much we crane our necks and attempt to see ahead of us, we simply cannot know where it will take us. That is why it is a journey of faith. Jesus does not tell us where to go; he simply asks us to follow him.
Remember Abraham—asked to leave his country, relatives, and known world and go to an unspecified land that he was promised would ultimately be revealed to him. Or recall the children of Israel as they followed God out of Egypt and into the wilderness.
The essence of Christian spirituality is to follow Christ on a pilgrimage that will often leave us feeling we are lost in the desert or heading in the wrong direction away from everything known and safe. The distant land to which we are called is not heaven. Nor is it some external, physical place. The distant land is the new creature into whom Christ wishes to fashion us—the whole and holy person who finds her or his uniqueness, identity, and calling in Christ. The distant land is God and the true self we find when we are fully found in God.
Articles in this issue explore this journey—some describing markers that help us know we are still on the way, others discussing stages of the transformational process, and others simply keeping us honest about the inescapable anxiety (and occasional terror!) that is sometimes involved in daring to float on this dark river of faith.
But honesty also demands we acknowledge that not all Christians understand this spiritual pilgrimage in precisely the same way. These differences will be evident in the articles that follow. And that is precisely how it should be. To be candid about the differences in our understanding is to take a step toward humility. This is a very important step because humility keeps us dependent and focused on God. And that—of course—lies right at the heart of Christian spirituality.
And so, walking humbly with God and with one another, we press ahead on the grand adventure that God has planned for us. The path may be difficult and the way unclear, but the invitation to follow comes from none other than the one who calls himself “The Way.” Truly—as the first Christians were called—we are “People of the Way.” We are people on a journey. May God use this issue to help us remain faithful to this journey.