We returned home on Wednesday morning and I’ve finally had some leisure to reflect on experiences we had in Turkey, both in southern Turkey at places where the Apostle Paul walked, as well as Istanbul, once the site of many Christian pilgrimages to the church of Hagia Sophia (now, in Turkish, Ayasofya, a “museum).
I had hoped to post more blogs while traveling but the challenge of intermittent internet service as well as our busy schedule didn’t leave me much time for more than one post. I needed some time and space to reflect on what I have experienced. I thought of the two disciples traveling to Emmaus who were met on the road by Jesus. Although they first didn’t recognize him, when they finally came to a place of rest and shared a meal, they could reflect — “Didn’t our hearts burn within us…?”
This quote from a 15th century Dominican friar about his own trips to the Holy Land (quoted in Sellner’s book, Pilgrimage) is very appropriate: “No one should think visiting the holy places to be a light task; there is the intense heat of the sun, the walking from place to place…above all there is the strain which everyone puts on himself striving with all his might to rouse himself with earnest piety and comprehension of what is shown him in the holy places…all of which cannot be done without great fatigue, because to do them fitly a man should be at rest and not walking about.”
I know what this friar meant!
It was probably 100 degrees in Ephesus and the other archeological sites. Istanbul was a bit cooler but humid. We walked a lot, of course, and found few air-conditioned spaces. As soon as we got back to our lodgings, we would take a shower and head out for a family activity related to the wedding celebration. A glorious week or so, but not very conducive to reflection!
I’ll leave you with a few questions to ponder: What if we all took more time to stop and reflect on life? Would daily existence seem more like a pilgrimage? How would we see our own life differently if we paused more often to recognize God’s presence in the common experiences of each day?