It isn’t easy to begin to describe the TSSF Pilgrimage to Walsingham. The external facts are easy enough to read about on the website, but the experience itself is far less accessible to words or pictures. The lovely buildings, set in beautiful gardens, are well enough known to need no introduction from me. What you don’t see is the sheer sense of holiness that pervades the place. I kept catching myself walking around a corner and feeling like Jacob, who “was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’” (Genesis 28.17)
God speaks with a strange clarity in places like this, and yet it is hard to share in such a public way as this the things one hears. Certainly we left Walsingham both knowing very clearly the intensity of God’s call to prayer, and the urgent necessity of our response, which has been strangely echoed in the recent experience of other Christians in Swanage. The true extent of that call on our lives, though, is only gradually becoming clear.
Somehow the Holy Spirit soaks into one with the water of that place, and as Paul says, “God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit…” (Romans 8.27) It’s very uncomfortable. Increasingly it’s impossible to get away with hiding one’s mind from one’s heart. But God is very gentle, even if he is God…
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.
Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.