How is the Orthodox pilgrimage different from religious tourism?
Is Orthodox pilgrimage a kind of tourism for believers or something more? How not to turn a trip into a tour? And is it even necessary to go to holy places, if God is One and the same everywhere? In this article you will find tips for pilgrims, as well as interesting facts from the history of pilgrimage.
Who is a pilgrim?
Orthodox pilgrimage is not a “tour for believers,” but a visit to Christian shrines for the purpose of prayer, repentance, and labor. The word "pilgrim" comes from the "palm" ("palma"). But which palm are we talking about?
Refer to the Gospel story of the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. Locals and people from the outskirts of the city greeted him as the king of Judah and therefore laid him under his feetpalm branches.
With the spread of Christianity, more and more people came to Jerusalem to pray and worship the shrines.Seven days before Easter were of particular importance to believers. On the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, they came with palm branches - in memory of the solemn meeting of Christ with the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
From the Holy Land, believers very often brought these branches. Therefore, Christians who visited Jerusalem were called pilgrims.
But the worship of the holy places as a special manifestation of the life of the believer arose long before Christianity. Moreover: what we call pilgrimage, made and make representatives of different religions. But the greatest development of such travel reached in the era of Christianity. But first things first.
From Jewish traditions to Orthodox pilgrimage
According to the Old Testament history, pious Jews were sent to pray and offer sacrifices to the Tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant. Later it was replaced by the Jerusalem temple.
At Easter, the Jews were made to visit Jerusalem. We see this in the example of the Virgin Mary and Joseph the Handcuffer, who, together with the 12-year-old Jesus, went on a “pilgrimage”.
Representatives of other religions are also sent to worship the shrines. For example, an important part of the life of Muslims ishajj- visit to Mecca and Medina. Hindus, Buddhists, Shinto have their analogues.
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
The Christian and, accordingly, Orthodox pilgrimage reached its peak. The first route was precisely the Holy Land, directly connected with the life of Christ.
During Passion Week, many pilgrims from different countries passedThe Way of the Savior. He stretches from the place where Pilate sentenced Jesus to death, before being crucified on Calvary and buried.
A marble chapel was built over the Savior’s coffin, the so-called cuvukliya. The Greek Patriarch is praying on Great Saturday in this very coaster. Through his prayers and the expectations of many gathered believers, fire comes down from heaven, called the Blessed. Miracle of convergenceHoly Fire- Another reason for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
It is not known exactly when such grace was first shown, but the first descriptions of the miracle of the descent of fire from the sky date back to the 9th century. Even in our time, many pilgrims, regardless of religion on the eve of Orthodox Easter, are sent to Jerusalem, to the Temple of the Holy Sepulcher.
But back to the story.Among the popular directions of the Orthodox pilgrimage were Constantinople and Athos, among the Catholics - Rome, Loreto, the Path of St. James.
Pilgrimages to the lands of Rus
In Russia, after the adoption of Christianity, the practice of worshiping shrines also spread. But not everyone could afford to visit the Holy Land. This required a long time and a lot of money.
In a few centuries, internal pilgrimages will become popular. Our great-great-grandmothers did not know anything about the pilgrim trips: they went on foot.
To pray and worship the shrines, believers came toKiev-Pechersk Lavra(in the caves today there are relics of over 120 saints),Pochaev(to the foot of the Virgin and the relics of St. Job), inTrinity-Sergius Monastery(a place of spiritual feats of Sergius of Radonezh). Over time, addedDiveevo(here are the relics of Seraphim Sarovsky). It was also customary to visit lesser-known monasteries and temples (their list today looks impressive).
Even in the 19th century secular literature, one can find testimonies about how believers went to Lent to Kiev or Pochaev, in order to worship the holy relics, pray to the Lord and the Theotokos, confess, take communion, and return to prayer.
Why Orthodox pilgrimages are not religious tourism?
Some people believe that traveling to holy places is a time of cultural and religious pastime. Allegedly, secular people go on vacation to the sea or to the mountains, and Christians go on pilgrimages. There they become acquainted with outstanding shrines, architectural sights, and guides learn a lot of new things ... But this is nothing more than religious tourism.
And the pilgrim is not such a lucky traveler with a camera in his hands and a backpack behind his back.
The benefits of hiking pilgrimages
Orthodox pilgrimage is a prayer and spiritual work. Of course, modern conditions spoiled believers. You no longer have to travel to the Holy Land for decades, or devote 40 days of Lent to walk to Kiev or Pochaev, the Trinity-Sergius Lavra or Diveevo.
When you go on foot for several weeks for the specific purpose of asking God for forgiveness and worshiping the shrines, you especially hope for the help of the Lord. Feel how much you need God, how He keeps you. And the Lord, accordingly, through people sends you food and shelter.
When people went to worship the shrines on foot and without strangers, they had enough time to stay alone with God.
Escape from the hustle and bustle
Today, conditions have changed, foot pilgrimages practically crowded out pilgrimage trips, but ideally the main emphasis remained: prayer and spiritual work.
You are not going to take pictures of the sights and listen to the guide. You are going to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world, to think about the main things, to thank the Lord and ask Him about something important, as people often say, to draw on grace. To do this, spend your time, partially refuse to communicate with loved ones, do not regret the money to pay for a pilgrim trip.
Someone will ask: is it really necessary to get ready for the road, if you can take communion on the spot, and God will hear our prayer in any corner of the world - be it in Jerusalem or in the Arctic? ..
Yes, God is One and the same everywhere, the Eucharist is no different in any Orthodox church. But our state is different. Thanks to the Orthodox pilgrimage, we have the opportunity to at least briefly escape from the hustle and bustle and concentrate on prayer. Moreover, the circle of communication plays an important role. As modern psychologists often like to say, we are 90% of our surroundings.
So, pilgrimage trips are a great chance to expand the circle of Christian fellowship. Experienced pilgrims point out that the composition of the group plays an important role. If truly believing people have gathered, even in a short time you will fully experience the meaning of the Christian life - the atmosphere of love, spiritual joy, attentiveness, benevolence, prayer and the Eucharist.
Tips for going on an Orthodox pilgrimage:
- Prepare for the trip. Collect the things you really need, learn more about the shrines to which you are going. Do it all with a prayer attitude.
- If you can, preach and partake in the communion before the pilgrim trip. If possible, and desire to take the blessing of the spiritual father, discuss with him your concerns.
- Write notes beforehand to use time for prayers and divine services during visits to temples and monasteries, rather than staggering around the candle box.
- Leave the burden of the world. Do not take it with you to the bus, train or plane. This is what distracts you from prayer in the first place.
- Turn off the phone. The most loved ones already know where you are.Do not think about what problems await you at home, what the boss will say, and generally how an honest Christian will survive in this sinful world.
- If you are traveling with friends, then try to squander precious time on empty talk or worse - condemnation. Try to keep your heart clean.
- Usually on a bus, pilgrims pray together, sing psalms, or watch helpful videos about the shrines visited. Tune in to a good time.
- Focus on the goals specifically of your pilgrim trip.
- During visits to temples and monasteries pay attention to worship and the Sacraments. In long pilgrimages, believers are often blessed to take communion. Try to use this moment, rather than constantly being distracted by candles, notes, flyers.
- Try to keep the received grace in your heart a little longer. Your life after visiting holy places should change so that it does not work out this way: in a monastery you behaved righteously and piously, and at home you returned to all previous sins.
- Change first of all yourself, and not relatives, other participants of the pilgrim trip. Your actions will be a hundred times more eloquent than words.
- Do not turn an Orthodox pilgrimage into a religious tourism. Yes, we are far from our ancestors, who overcame hundreds of kilometers for the sake of worshiping shrines. But we are able to invest in our trip even a few mites of spiritual achievement and prayer.
The history and importance of the pilgrimage is also described in this video: