And find the place of my resurrection.
It is easy in Lent to think of following Christ in terms of following him to the cross and, of course, that is a significant aspect of the story which is worthy of our focus. But we also follow Christ to the place of his resurrection. The incarnation can be understood as God’s pilgrimage — choosing to travel as a stranger among strangers with all of the perils and promise of such a journey.
I do not find in my searching ancient examples of pilgrims naming the journey as a search of the place of resurrection, but I do see this phrase with some frequency in the stories about the lives of the saints of Ireland, England, and Scotland. You may recall Ester de Waal’s remarks about Celtic spirituality and the concept of wandering. She writes:
“[This] understanding of journeying is in itself so rich and so significant. It is peregrinatio, seeking quest, adventure, wandering, exile — it is ultimately a journey . . . to find the place of my resurrection, the resurrected self, the self that I might hope to be, to become the true self in Christ. This journey is possible only because I am finding my roots — that familiar paradox known in all monastic life and a reflection of basic human experience, that only if one is rooted at home in one's self, in the place which one finds oneself, is one able to move forward, to open up new boundaries, both exterior and interior, in other words, to embark on a life of continual and never-ending conversion, transformation."
— in The Celtic Way of Prayer p. ix-x by Ester de Waal
We see Celtic saints in this pursuit such as Saint Bairre of Cork [who is also known by the names: Finbar, Barra, Barre; Findbarr of Cork - PHL]. Bairre was led by an angel who, as he arrived in various places said, “Not here shall be thy resurrection.” Eventually Bairre reached the location that would become Cork and the angel said, “Abide here, for here shall be thy haven of resurrection.” [See Bethada Náem Nérenn Lives of Irish Saints, Vol. 2 by Charles Plummer, p. 16]. Saint Columbanus in the sixth century CE writes, referencing Psalm 42, “Let this principle abide with us, that on the road we live as travelers, as pilgrims, as guests of the world singing . . . ‘When shall I come and behold the face of God?’” It is in the place of our resurrection that we see God face to face.
While this concept is understandably described in reference to geographic locations, it is also (and perhaps even more importantly) about locations found only in the interior landscape of our search for God. This is perhaps best articulated by the Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse: “To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.” We make an outer journey which is meant to prompt and promote an inner odyssey of spiritual exploration.
As pilgrims in the season of Lent, following our Lord through the horrors of Good Friday and the joys of Easter, we do well to wonder about our search for the place of our resurrection. If the life of the one we follow is meant to show us the way, we can expect that it will include both love and hostility; both peace and pain; the fidelity of some and the betrayal of many; the despair occasioned by the tomb; and the joys of discovering that the tomb cannot constrain the love of God.
Lord, you say to us, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” In you we “live and move and have our being,” and the path to the place of our resurrection is found in your way, truth, and life. Help us who follow and who search for life to find the life which really is life. All this we ask that we might be bearers of your grace to a hurting world. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.