Sometimes you need familiarity
Important occasions need to be observed. Anniversaries only come around once a year. Particularly when life gets busy, we can forget the importance of taking time out to observe an anniversary. And sometimes, the only way to mark an anniversary is to create a tradition of sorts.
Such was my English adventure two weeks ago as I marked the anniversary of my baptism. My friend Irenaeus and I went up to Walsingham, a site of ancient English pilgrimage. I have been to Walsingham before. Incidentally, on my last trip to Walsingham, I decided to make the final preparations for my baptism. It seemed a very fitting place to return to.
However, Walsingham is familiar to me for more than just the past visit. Walsingham is England’s Nazareth. In 1061, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to Lady Richeldis instructing her to build a replica of the Holy House in Nazareth. When construction completed, a spring bubbled up. Pilgrims flocked to this site to receive the holy waters. Walsingham is the home of the Theotokos. As Christians live into the command of Christ: “Behold your mother” (John 19:27), her home is our home. Additionally, my icon from my visit to Walsingham stands watch over my bed, even when I am at home.
Walsingham also has one of my favorite prayer shrines. It is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on the grounds of the Roman Catholic Shrine. The chapel features a beautiful mosaic of Pentecost. I particularly like the spirit of the chapel in that the intercessory candles seriously mean business. I can wrap my hand comfortably around the larger candles. The atmosphere carries the attitude of purposeful intercession. I cannot help but to bring some of the childish approach to prayer, as “Flame on!” screams through my head Fantastic 4 style when I light the candle. I am reminded not to take myself too seriously and find great joy.
I went up to Walsingham purposefully even as I had a term paper due the following Thursday. I worked out my paper-writing efforts around my trip. As such, I managed to enjoy my weekend quite thoroughly. The intentionality of the anniversary reminded me considerably of the intentionality around my actual baptism. Many of my friends came from all over the world to witness my baptism. And I carried them with me in my heart as I returned home so to speak.