In its most basic definition, a pilgrim is a person who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.
Pilgrimages within religious traditions (not only Christian) have been undertaken for thousands of years. The idea of pilgrimage itself is resonant with meaning – as people we are pilgrims not only in the physical sense of travelling to a sacred place, but the journey of faith itself is a pilgrimage. Why? Because we are going somewhere and we are seeking something. What might it be? ‘My heart is restless until I find my rest in you’ says St Augustine. We are people of desire and of longing and therefore we undertake multiple journeys in order to be fulfilled. The travellers on the road to Emmaus were not on a pilgrimage, nevertheless on their journey they discovered something new about God: their eyes were opened. We undertake pilgrimage as an act of commitment to having our eyes opened.
The Year of Pilgrimage was designated by the Association of English Cathedrals for 2020, they could not have predicted that 2020 would be defined by lack of movement, restriction and confinement to homes. Is pilgrimage possible now? As we have seen, it very much is, as pilgrimage is about a journey of the heart.
Chelmsford Cathedral has its own pilgrimage route, starting at Pleshey Retreat House and walking eight or nine miles, mostly along footpaths, to arrive at the cathedral in the heart of the city. If you would like to walk the pilgrimage route, please download the instructions here. To view the walk on a map, please click here.