Thursday, May 22, 2014

From air and land and sea #1

Almighty Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.
O Christ, the Lord of hill and plain
O'er which our traffic runs amain
By mountain pass or valley low;
Wherever, Lord, thy brethren go,
Protect them by thy guarding hand
From every peril on the land.
O Spirit, whom the Father sent
To spread abroad the firmament;
O Wind of heaven, by thy might
Save all who dare the eagle's flight,
And keep them by thy watchful care
From every peril in the air.
O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them whereso'er they go,
Thus evermore shall rise to thee
Glad praise from air and land and sea.
The original words of this hymn were written by William Whiting, headmaster at a choirsters school in 1860. Whiting was approached by a boy who was to travel overseas to America and was petrified of ocean travel. Having had his own perils at sea he wrote this hymn to "anchor" the boy's faith. The hymn has had mostly been used as the "fight song prayer" for those in the military, particularly the Navy. While that stands true that this is a military hymn (wikipedia has many words for this hymn depending on the branch of military service), the words to the 1940 hymnal for the Episcopal Church seem to apply to all who travel. God, protector of those who travel by sea, Christ the Lord of the hills and mountains, the Holy Spirit guarder of those in the air. The Holy Trinity, protector from natural disasters. For me implication is the same both of those who serve their country and the civilians who leave their home for work or leisure: they are called to do so.

God calls people in the Bible for all sorts of travel. Look at the trips Paul made all over Asia-minor, the calling of Abraham to the Promise Land, the pilgrimages the Hebrews would later take the Holy Land. There are other instances where travel isn't favorable. The numerous exiles of the Jews being one of them. While we know that before the Fall the world was paradise and perfect in order. Its my speculation that the need to travel may be a result of the Fall. When sin entered the world, our need of resources changed. Maybe they grew scarce? I'll add that to my many questions to ask someday but for the moment I'm more concerned with the theological/spiritual purpose of traveling. 

As I've said before, though I have no formal training in this area and am speaking from the armchair, theology is simply a framework to understand that "wholly other". The sacred which is beyond and infused in our mundane world. It's building will differ from tradition to tradition. Protestant traditions will build their theology only on the Bible (credit Martin Luther, even though he wasn't the first to say it). Roman Catholicism will build theology on Scripture and Tradition (Mary was "consummed" into Heaven because people saw it, and the Revelation kinda mentions it..ish). Blended traditions like mine will build on Scripture, Tradition, and Reason (we thought about it, and the lot of you are nuts). In any case, the framework allows a person or community to experience God. If you don't experience Spirituality in your theology, then you probably don't believe it, or your theology sucks. This framework helps us understand how God moves and acts in our lives by seeing how God has acted in the forebearers of our faith. 

Based on what we see in Scripture, God calls us to places which are other than our home. Sometimes for reasons we can't understand God forces us to places which are other than our homes. And sometimes, we just have to places other than our homes for need of resources. The one thing which scripture can't account for (please, if I'm wrong here then correct me) is travel for leisure. The need to "get away" just doesn't seem to be mentioned and I am super perlexed by this if its true.

The question I now pose is how do we build a theological framework around the idea of leisure travel? For instance when I make trips to San Francisco and much of my activities revolve around opprotunities for worship, am I just making a pilgrimage? When we take vacations to our favorite camp sites, are we just retrying to recreate the first time we went there, as Eliade would argue?

Oddly enough this was intended to be the first blog of my travel blog. I intend to backpack through Western Europe in November starting in Paris, then Taize, London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. That blog will chronicle my preparations starting now and through the trip itself. I was going to kick it off by looking for the spirituality in such a journey, but the post had another direction it wanted to go.

I'm at a loss here for the moment. I think this is going to be a three or four part thing.