Advice To A Pilgrim
Unto Rome thou woulds’t attain?
Great the toil is, small the gain,
If the King thou seek’st therein,
Travel not with thee from Erin.
This advice comes in the form of a very old Irish aphoristic poem. It is probably from around the seventh century A.D. It is advice for all of us who are pilgrims on the road to the Eternal Jerusalem. It has to do with the condition of one’s soul and the attitude of one’s mind.
You see, it is a short poem, but it is packed with wisdom. The ‘fila’, or poet knows something very important here. He knows that Rome/Jerusalem is a very great distance from Ireland/Erin. The ‘there’ of our greatest desire is a long way from the ‘here’ of our daily lives. He knows the practical difficulties of the difficult journey to Rome from Erin in the 7th century, “Great the toil is,” but he also knows that there will be very little gain in it if you think God is to be found somewhere far from where you are. God is near to us all. To search for him in some far distant place is a fool’s quest. He is here! If we do not know him ‘here,’ where we are, we will not find him ‘there’ either. If we go with God, throughout our life-long pilgrimage, in whatever manner or depth we know him now, if we keep him as our companion in prayer, even in the dark times, when we finally arrive at the road’s end, we will discover that he knew and loved us all the time, through all the trials and tribulations, and our wonder in him will be greater even than that which we anticipated.