DEDICATED TO ALL THOSE WHO TRAVEL / Fr. Bijesh Philip

There is not a single moment in our life when we are not travelling. Even when we stay comfortably in a place, our planet is in cyclic journey carrying us. Knowingly or unknowingly we are travelling always. We have travelled a lot with specific purposes and might have also travelled purposelessly. We can use adjectives like educational, adventure, entertaining, medical, missionary and professional to the term ‘journey’. We can walk or use a cycle, bike, car, jeep, truck, train, boat, ship, flight etc. to travel from place to place.

Our long journeys can also be used as a parable for a reflection on our life journey. Many mystics and religious thinkers have used the metaphor of journey to describe life journey or spiritual journey. For example, St. Gregory of Nyssa has symbolically interpreted the Israelites’ travel from Egypt to the promised land to explain our spiritual progress in his famous book ‘Life of Moses’.

A keen observation of usual journeys will help us to derive many insights into our life journey also. Let me remember with gratitude the opportunities got during my long train journeys for the last two decades and more for me to stimulate the meditative thoughts of my fellow travellers, especially youngsters, to have insights for the life journey. The attempt here is to link such thoughts or insights we learn from our travels with our transient journey in this planet.

  1. A clear view of  destination

Fixing of destination precedes our actual travel. Since we keep this fixeddestination clearly in our minds, we will be able to choose our ways and vehicles easily in accordance with that. It is the clear picture of the place to reach which helps us to choose the right train in a busy railway station. We get down and enjoy tea or other beverages and other sights on the platform when the train stops at stations. But when it moves again, we will hurry up to cut short or give up such experiences so that we could resume our journey and reach the destination on time. Thus,the final goal of our journey will prompt us to forsake many deviating trivialities and to move forward to achieve our goals. Jesus set some higher goals for us when he taught us to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect or to seek the kingdom of God first. Goals we set regarding virtues in our life or our contributions to the world will be more glorious than our educational and professional goals.

The church through its worship, spiritual exercises, saints and exhortations constantly remind us to grow in holiness and love.  In other words, it is a call to be virtuous like Jesus, by being in Him.  Unfortunately, many things connected with secondary greatness of life like accumulation of wealth, glamorous positions, luxurious possessions are becoming primary concerns.  Sometimes obsession with petty goals can lead to toxic thoughts and harmful acts which lead to destruction.  When calamites like flood comes, some people because of their attachment to their house or possessions in it, in spite of the announcements from authorities, will not leave their house and will thus invite their own doom.    Wisdom is light to prioritize life for the true success and fullness of life.  Divine call is to change and focus on primary greatness of life. Having received this calling in baptism which sets the baptized on the path of light and salvation, we    can escape from the illusions of this world.  There is a petition in the second prayer of the Syrian baptismal text currently in use in Malankara which is , “O Lord…….enlighten the eyes of his/her mind that s/he may understand the vanity of this world and by casting away every deadly service he/she may offer up glory to You.”  Just before the signing of cross on the forehead of the candidate with Myron, there is a prayer thus “O Lord……. Walking in your light let him/her be a son/daughter of light and following You, s/he may come to you”

  1. Continuous Guidance

When we travel to a new place through a strange place, we have to take the guidance of people who know the place very well or that of the global positioning system (GPS). If we follow just our instincts and travel by guessing, we may miss the way, or it may take much more time to reach the destination. Jalaluddin Rumi, the famous Sufi saint once said: ‘whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two days’ journey’.

Since our life journey is short in this planet, it will be foolish to test and choose every possible way personally every time. This is why we rely on the Spirit-filled ethical guidance of the Divine wisdom. Our conscience needs to be cultivated with the meditation of wisdom from the Gospel on a regular basis. Isaiah 30:21 says “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying ‘This is the way, walk in it’, when you wrongly turn to the right or the left.”  Just before this verse, it  is written that “your eyes shall see your Teacher.”Purity of our inner eyes and ears is essential to receive this guidance to the fullness of life. It is in purity of heart and silence that we listen to the soft promptings of the Holy Spirit who unceasingly draw our attention to Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

In this age of information revolution, our mind is bombarded every moment with a lot of information from manifold media, gadgets and people around us. There is no need of condemning all these as useless. But a discernment power with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to distinguish that which is really worth and beneficial for our fulfillment and also the world around us is very important. Such a spiritual listening is very relevant and essential when many secular thinkers and judges are arguingtoday for doing what you feel and creating an atmosphere for licentiousness and unbridled pleasure seeking.   Not just reading, but a silent meditation on the Gospel passages and other biblical texts and the consequent submission to the will of God are very helpful for the successful completion of our transient journey in this planet. Infinite Divine Intelligence would like to give solutions to our problems and guide us to glorious heights through various persons and events we experience every day. Sometimes such experiences will be through our readings or virtual world with the help of technology.    As a driver pays attention to the GPS unit in the vehicle he or she drives, we need silence in all sense to listen to the divine guidance conveyed to us through the Scripture, spiritual gurus, worship, and also through various personal and historical events. Anyway, the most important thing is to listen to such a Guidance and follow it with sincere openness and trust. Since we live in a culture which is addicted to various noises, sometimes we fail to listen to the sanctifying and life-giving soft voice from the Divine source. On certain occasions, indwelling Holy Spirit talks to us in a soft and gentle way from the core of our being, for listening to which we need to have inner silence also.  If the voice is a call for virtues like compassion, holiness, peace and justice and sacrificial service to the poor and suffering, it can be discerned as from the Spirit of God.

  1. Energy to Travel

Vehicles use petrol, diesel, solar energy and electricity and we humans use food and water as energy source for our movements and activities. God is the infinite source of energy including spiritual energy for our life journey. When I am in tune with the Infinite, I will be charged with infinite energy. It must be noted that in the Orthodox tradition, Holy Qurbana is understood as ‘provisions’ for our life journey. The tragedy of our present prominent culture is the failure to see and use this energy for our abundant life and enthusiasm (Enthusiasm comes from two Greek terms en + Theos = in + God). Life in communion with the Transcendent source of life is the secret of joy, vigor and true success.  The train moves not only by touching the tracks below, but also by connecting to the electric wires above with its ‘antenna’ stretched above. By getting connected to Jesus in this way, we are initiated in to the mystery of Triune God for our progressive life journey.

  1. Moderate use of the world

Minimum contact with the road or land is an important principle of journey. Not the whole body but only the heels (in shoes /slippers) are in touch with the path or field while we travel. Observation of the space of contact of the vehicles with roads will further affirm this principle of moderation for journey. If the whole body of vehicles touches roads, it will not move smoothly. Almost all ancient religions taught us about self-control and to focus on a need based moderate life style. But our present consumerist culture educates us continuously to throw away this age-old valuable principle as outdated into the trashcan and to follow greed based luxurious culture to take us to the destination of “happiness”. However, it is hopeful that there is a movement for moderation in consumption of the world from the secular world itself. James Wallman’s book Stuffocation which is trying to enlighten us to be happier and healthier and to live more with less or minimum stuff is just an example. Less luggage, more comfort.

  1. Fast approaching destination and transience of life

In our usual journey, we come closer to our destination every moment. Even when we sleep in a train, it is approaching the station where we must get down. History is like a train which comes from a distant past and goes to a far-off place. We get into it at one station and after passing a few stations, we get down. History continues with its people and other living things like a train. Now a days, not only the religious leaders but gurus of personality development, positive thinking and inner engineering are also reminding us about the need of the awareness of our momentary nature in this planet. Time for each one’s life journey is limited as well as unpredictable. So, the connectivity with the thought of our mortality gives light to prioritize things andinstills freshenthusiasm into our daily lives.

  1. Sensitivity to the fellow-travellers

All traffic rules are meant to sensitize us to care for our fellow travellers.  A red light in a junction tells us that we need to be sensitive to other vehicles and travellers.  Respecting the space and dignity of all in our family, church, other churches and religions, agnostics and atheists is a necessary principle. A sensitivity and compassion to not only fellow human beings but also air, water, plants, trees,  fish, animals and birds is also important for our  safety and happiness when   we  travel together  in this planet as in a boat.  Sharing good things including our valuable thoughts and beliefs without humiliating others or violating their dignity is the joy of love in our journey.

  1. Road Blocks and New Roads

Roadblocks are invitations to take new roads, less travelled hitherto.  As reaction to blocks and hindrances in our road, we can either stop our travel or go back.  Another creative response is to take an entirely new deviation for our onward journey.  Roadblocks and hardships which come accidentally in our life journeys are also opportunities  to change our attitudes and priorities in such a way as to lead us and our world to more glorious heights and fullness of life for all. In theface of such crises, the Ultimate Intelligence places a sign board redirecting us to new ways. He is also ready to accompany us to give us necessary courage and light to tread the road less travelled.  Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and

broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it” (St. Matthew 7:14).  As  a loving mother who runs after a mischievous child,  His love is chasing us not to make our journey miserable, but to make us truly happy, safe  and successful in our life journey.  The way of cross may appear to be foolishness to many. But actually that is the way to success and joy. Cross is the road to heaven. In other words, our world becomes heavenly throughour cross bearing for practicing the will of God.

Let us thank God for giving us a vision of hope regarding a glorious end to our journey. The awareness that the One who flagged off our journey and sent us and the One who welcomes us at the finishing point is alwayswith us in this transient journey with its hardships and miseries, comforting us and encouraging us to move forward.