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Learning from the Puritans: life as pilgrimage

We have much to learn from the spirituality of the 17th-century Puritan movement. One perhaps surprising example of this is their emphasis on pilgrimage.

Tim Chester

Figure Image
photo: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

In the Old Testament, Jerusalem was seen as a place of pilgrimage. The annual feasts encouraged worshippers to journey to Jerusalem. The Psalms of Ascent testify to the significance of this journey. But with the coming of Jesus the nature of pilgrimage changes. Jesus himself is the temple (John 2:18-22), so we come to Him rather than journeying to a physical location (1 Peter 2:4-5). Nevertheless, in the medieval world, pilgrimage became a major feature of spirituality and a major money-spinner if you could establish yourself as a holy destination. Pilgrimage was a physical act that required physical movement. For some it was an act that earned merit before God. Others journeyed to sacred relics or sites since these were thought to have inherent power. It was a chance to pray to a saint at his or her shrine for a miracle or for time off purgatory.