To the Irish, the pope, the bishop of Rome who was successor to Saint Peter, was a kind of high king of the church, but like the high king a distant figure whose wishes were little known and less considered. Rome was surely the ultimate pilgrim’s destination – especially because there were so many books there that could be brought back and copied! But if your motive was holiness:
To go to Rome
Is little profit, endless pain;
The Master that you seek in Rome,
You find at home, or seek in vain.Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, p. 181
There’s some New Covenant common sense in this ancient Irish verse. Worshiping in spirit and in truth means there are no longer some mountains holier than others – nor cities. The presence of the Spirit in all of God’s people means physical pilgrimage is no longer necessary. The presence of God is just as near in Ireland as in Rome, in Melanasia as in Jerusalem.
On the other hand, having lived in frontier places without ready access to good Christian books, I fully understand a willingness to go to such tremendous lengths to acquire them.
Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash
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