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A Brief History of Christian Pilgrimage

Apr 27, 2016   //   by admin   //   Blog, ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on A Brief History of Christian Pilgrimage

To go on pilgrimage is to be part of a long and respectable history almost two thousand years old. Even Jesus himself participated in pilgrimages as a child with his family to Jerusalem for High Holy Days, and Psalms 120-134 are known as the “Psalms of Ascent”, sung by faithful Christians as they made their pilgrimages up to Jerusalem.

The Holy Land

In the medieval era, the Holy Lands were often inaccessible or too dangerous to visit. Many European Christians developed imitation pilgrimage practices in response, such as walking labyrinths on cathedral grounds. Over time, this became a widespread practice with its own rituals and routines.

Early pilgrimages in Europe

After initially preparing, people would journey into the labyrinth and upon reaching the centre; they would spend time in prayer and quiet contemplation. At this point, they would slowly start returning back to the entrance of the labyrinth with a renewed and revived spirit. Many medieval Christians also started to practice walking the Stations of the Cross, with symbols in the church guiding pilgrims to follow the footsteps of Jesus on his way to the Crucifixion.

Other sites in Europe became popular during the centuries where it was too dangerous to travel to the Holy Land. St. Peter’s in Rome has traditionally been the most popular pilgrimage destination, due to the presence of the Apostle Peter’s earthly remains.

Santiago de Compostela in Spain has been Europe’s second most popular pilgrimage site, traditionally renowned to house the remains of the Apostle James. Visiting sites such as these helped medieval Christians visit a ‘Sacred Centre’ of their faith.

Canterbury Cathedral and the shrine of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket, became England’s best-known pilgrimage destination when he was martyred on the orders of King Henry II in 1170. Pilgrims have journeyed to Becket’s shrine for centuries, and its fame has been immortalised in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1383-1400), where twenty-nine pilgrims tell stories to each other on the way to seek healing and transformation.

The Reformation and recent years

During The Reformation, going on Pilgrimage fell out of favour, as various superstitions were associated with it. Despite this, the fundamental nature of pilgrimage, to make a journey to a religious centre to deepen one’s faith, has remained strong in the spiritual life of Christianity.

More recently, going on pilgrimage has increased in popularity once more. Catholics, Protestants and even Evangelical Christians are all rediscovering the transformative power with journeying to a sacred site.

Leaving the regular world behind and visiting spiritually significant places offers the chance to contemplate and enjoy the wonders of God, before returning, feeling refreshed and renewed.

Many people find pilgrimage attractive as it offers an opportunity to get away from the distractions of everyday life, and to work towards a life in closer communion with God.

The Seven Depths of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Aug 26, 2015   //   by admin   //   Blog, ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on The Seven Depths of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Our soul is precious. But what is our soul? In simple terms, our soul is who we are. It is our very essence. The presence of a soul can be identified by how we feel inside. Our emotions indicate the condition of our soul. For this reason having an emotionally healthy spiritual life is paramount.

How can be measure the depths of our spirituality in terms of our emotional health? Here are seven indicators.

The Depth of Personhood

How do we reflect on our own lives, even those finite daily interactions and perceptions? Do we bottle up our emotions? Do openly share who we are with those around us? A person able to share their fears, hopes, dreams, insecurities and joys with others is courageous and honest – a person with a deep personhood.

Depth of Redemption from the Past

We all have demons. Residual guilt or shame can have a lingering drastically-negative effect within our psyche. This has been vanquished in the truth, which is rooted in the very essence of the Christian faith. When you choose to believe the person that you were fades away. This rebirth is one of the most attractive aspects of Christianity – and one of reasons many turn to faith every year.

Depth of Acceptance of our Limitations

Strength is to know and accept our limitations. No one walks through life with limits. Not everyone is destined walk through life with the ability to walk a tightrope between two high rise buildings. Not everyone is destined to father nine children. Not everyone is destined to be responsible for the welfare of a nation. Understanding our purpose without failing to achieve a purpose that isn’t meant for us is one of the cornerstones of a spiritually healthy life.

Depth of Brokenness and Willed Vulnerability

Someone with an understanding to jettison self protection – especially when offering their strength to others is a person of great courage and understanding. This belief is highlighted in faiths the world over.

Depth when Experiencing Grief and Loss

Grief and loss are a part of life. There is only one solitary collective constant for every single individual in the world – we all die. To acknowledge this, and the grief that comes with death, is another pivotal aspect of sound emotionally-healthy spirituality.

Depth of Connecting with Others

Emotional intimacy with your fellow man is another pathway to emotional healthy spirituality. When experiencing a prolonged period of depression, one of the most effective ways to combat the turmoil is to help others.

Additionally, the ability to form meaningful relationships is paramount also. Adults do tend to become drawn into deep relationships in the wrong manner. Emotional and spiritual maturity allows us to form appropriately deep relationships, whilst erecting safe boundaries.

Depth of Integrity and Self Control

One of the more challenged aspects of faith in terms of emotions, yet one with the greatest long terms effects on emotional well-being is the ability to have our emotions work for us and not against us. The Ten Commandments can be treated as guidelines to a productive and happy life. Teaching us to not covert what we don’t have, not to hurt other people, not to be greedy in terms of possessions will allow us to keep our integrity.

Follow these seven tips and you’ll surely be able to enjoy spiritual and emotional wealth. Embrace who you are and who you were meant to be and you’ll have a happy life.

 

Six Religious Places to Visit in Tamil Nadu

Aug 3, 2015   //   by admin   //   Blog, ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on Six Religious Places to Visit in Tamil Nadu

There is a wealth of places of spiritual significance throughout the globe. Whether in Europe, Asia or the Americas, you’ll be treated to an abundance of locale choice. Tamil Nadu, the eleventh largest state in India, is one of the most frequented pilgrimage locations in the world. With over 34,000 Hindu temples and a wealth of places of spiritual significance, Tamil Nadu is offers much for those undertaking a pilgrimage. Here are seven religious places that you must visit in Tamil Nadu.

Chidambaram

A hut-like sanctum, Chidambaram is famed for having a gold-plated roof and towering gopurams. Such is the opulence of this site that many great kings of history were crowned here.

Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health

A Roman Catholic basilica which is devoted to our Lady of Good Health, this place of great religious significance is found in Velankanni. Devotion to the Lady of Good Health is set to have commenced in the 16th Century. It’s believed that the basilica was the location of three miracles.

Palani

The largest pilgrimage centre in Tamil Nadu, Palani is the site of the famed six abodes of Murugan. The temple has the highest number of visitors during the Poosam festival. It’s estimated that as many as seven million devotees enjoy a wealth of activities such as shaving their head and walking barefoot, showering their devotion to the deity.

San Thome Basilica 

Located in Santhome, San Thome Basilica was constructed in the 16th Century by Portuguese explorers. The Basilica is the principal church of the Madras-Mylapore Catholic Archidiocese. San Thome Basilica is attached to a museum, hence has proven to be very popular with tourists.

 Srirangam

Housing the Ranganathaswamy Temple, one of the most significant destinations of the Vaishvana community, Srirangam is the largest Hindu temple in the world. It covers 156 acres and features the tallest tower in the world, reaching 196 feet.

Perur Temple

Perur Temple was constructed by Karikal Cholan over 1500 years ago and houses shrines to the presiding deity, Patteeswarar. Just seven kilometres from Coimbatore, Perur Temple has a wealth of shrines to admire and is the location of hundreds of visitors throughout the Panguni Uthiram festival which is celebrated in March each and every year.

These are six sites of religious significance that you can’t afford to miss in Tamil Nadu. Any pilgrimage to these sites would be more than welcomed for those seeking spiritual enlightenment.

Christian Pilgrimages through the Ages and Their Significance

Jun 29, 2015   //   by admin   //   ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on Christian Pilgrimages through the Ages and Their Significance

It cannot be denied that undertaking a Christian pilgrimage is an essential part of Christian life. The journey allows you to draw closer to God and live the life that He intended for us. Many pilgrimages are taken by Christians of every year to places of spiritual significance.

Christian pilgrimages are made to those holy sites, connected to the Ministry of Jesus. History has taught us that pilgrimages have been undertaken since the 4th Century AD when church fathers were inspired and encouraged to tread where Jesus once had. Most went to Rome and other sacred sites, associated with saints and martyrs.

Throughout the middle ages the popularity of pilgrimages soared. Groups became accustomed to staying in monasteries and inns. Seeking spiritual healing and dedicated penance, our ancestors understood the importance of pilgrimages, as we do today.

Today the Christian faith is blessed with a wealth of sacred places to visit. From locations Jesus was known to have lived and worked to those that the New Testament tells us he spread the good news to places of historical and spiritual significance in the Old Testament, there is a wealth of options for Christians, Mount Sinai, Hebron, Jerusalem and Jericho to name but a few.

The choice of where you’d like to visit is one, personal to individual Christians. Over time some places have grown to become more popular than others, however this doesn’t seem to stop Christians from visiting the location that speaks the most to their Christian faith and to them as individuals.

The significance of pilgrimages is one of considerable importance to Christians. Indeed, pilgrimages will deepen a Christian’s faith in God, allowing them to reconnect at a time that they may feel that they’re drawing away from God, or open them up to a higher understanding of their faith.

To conclude, a pilgrimage can be one of the most essential experiences that a Christian can have. Anyone considering one should be encouraged and take either the first, last, or even a significant step in their spiritual evolution.

Five Biblical Landmarks of The Holy Land

Jun 9, 2015   //   by admin   //   ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on Five Biblical Landmarks of The Holy Land

The Biblical landmarks of The Holy Land have drawn millions of people the world over to Israel each and every year. The Biblical landmarks allow visitors the world over to witness an incredible history of Christian, Jewish and Islamic religion. Listed below are five Biblical landmarks that anyone visiting The Holy Land can’t afford to miss.

Bethlehem

The city where King David and Jesus were born, Bethlehem is one of the most-frequented and desirable of all the Biblical landmarks. Located a mere ten kilometres from the Old City of Jerusalem, visitors are treated to such attractions as the Milk Grotto Chapel, Rachel’s Tomb and Basilica of the Nativity.

The Sea of Galilee

Within just twenty five kilometres of the City of Nazareth, and with a wealth of activities for any visitor to enjoy, The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus fed the five thousand, calmed the storm, and walked on water. Indeed, the saviour of the Christian faith would often preach on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, making it a must-visit for many Christians the world over.

Elijah’s Cave

Elijah’s Cave is one landmark of Holy significant that can be witnessed upon travelling to Haifa. The sight of many significant religious events, Elijah’s Cave is where the prophet prayed and meditated. Those of the Egyptian and Jewish faith given that Mary, Joseph and Jesus stayed in the cave overnight on their passage to Egypt.

 

 

The City of Nazareth

Nazareth is simply a must-see for any Christian undertaking a historical pilgrimage. The New Testament tells us that Jesus spent part of his childhood in the city. The area boasts a wealth of churches to commemorate the significance of the city. Don’t miss the Church of Annunciation, Mensa Christi Church, the White Mosque and Eastern Orthodox Church amongst the many attractions.

The River Jordan

According to Jewish history the River Jordan flows to create an eastern border for the Land of Israel. The location of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, the River Jordan is one of the most notable religious regions in Israel.

Anyone undertaking a pilgrimage to The Holy Land cannot afford to miss these historical landmarks, a visit to each is integral to spiritual growth.

The four most sacred places on Earth

May 1, 2015   //   by admin   //   ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on The four most sacred places on Earth

Throughout time, civilisations from around the globe have attached religious or spiritual significance to certain places. Some areas considered more significant than others. Some have been lost to time, others still stand.

Here we have put together a list of the most sacred places on Earth that you can still visit today.

The Mahabodhi Tree, Bodh Gaya, India

It is thought that around 500 B.C, the ascetic Prince Siddhartha (otherwise known as Buddha) took a rest underneath a native bodhi tree. It is said that he meditated there for three nights, and awoke with enlightenment, insight, and answers he had sought after. These answers helped him develop teachings that were then spread to his disciples.

This tree is now one of the most sacred sites for Buddhists and has become a major pilgrimage destination.

Glastonbury Tor, England

This hill in Somerset has long been a place of mystery. Some ancient civilisations thought it an entrance to the home of Gwyn ap Nudd – the Lord of the Underworld. Pagans may have used the space to celebrate their goddess. Some have even linked the hill to the quest for the Holy Grail.

We may never know the use for the Glastonbury Tor, but many modern visitors report that they feel more hopeful and buoyant. You’ll have to visit yourself to find out!

Crater Lake, Oregon

This lake was formed almost 8,000 years ago after an eruption that caused Mount Mazama to collapse. The deep blue, freshwater lake is nearly 2,000 feet deep making in the seventh deepest lake in the world.

The Klamath tribe has considered it a sacred site for a long time. Their legends say that a battle between the Chief of the Above World and the Chief of the Below World led to the collapse of the mountain.

Cenote Sagrado, Mexico

There are many places in Mexico that are dotted with cenotes – underground sinkholes. Many of the Maya civilisations believe that some of these sites were visited by Chac, the god of rain. That’s why some of the cenotes were kept to be used in rituals, offerings, and sacrifices, the most famous of which is the Cenote Sagrado.

Archaeologists emptied the spring in the 20th century and found all manners of sacrifices including gold bells, cups, rings, and even human bones.

What other sacred sites are you interested in and would like to visit? Let us know!

The Legendary History of Santiago de Compostela

Mar 30, 2015   //   by admin   //   ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on The Legendary History of Santiago de Compostela

North Western Spain is a territory rich in converting people to the Christian faith. The Romans called Spain Finis Terrace, translated to ‘end of the world.’ Santiago de Compostela was named for St. James, who was also known as Santiago.

An event in 44 A.D. forever cemented the area as a place of spiritual significance. After returning from Palestine, Herodes Agrippa took Saint James as prisoner. He was eventually tortured to death. A burial place was decided upon, however prior to being put in the ground Saint James’ disciples stole his sarcophagus, board the body onto a boat and fled to the Spanish coast. The region has since become renowned for preaching Christianity.

Saint James was laid to rest at the Roman Province of Iria Flavia at a secret location deep in the woods. The location was the sight of a miraculous sight in 813 when Pelayo, a hermit living in the woods, saw a vivid light shining in the woods.

An investigation was launched by Teodomiro to ascertain the source of the light, after the tomb was built. History recalls that after this initial investigation King Alphonse 2nd built the chapel of St. James and declared James one of the most important Patron Saints of the empire. Known as Santiago, St. James gained in popularity as his teachings came to prominence, with a large public following.

The history books record that a great number of miracles were witnessed by Saint James. It’s believed that he fought with King Ramiro 1st in battle against hordes of moors. The chapel eventually evolved into cathedral known as Santiago de Compostela thanks to the amount of religious-minded pilgrims that chose to visit the site.

Over time the amount of pilgrims that have chosen to visit Santiago de Compostela has steadily increased. In the 12th and 13th centuries Pope Alexander 3rd blessed the town as one of holy spiritual significance. Furthermore, Pope Cailxto 2nd declared that any pilgrim visiting the site in the Holy Year would be set free of all their sins.

Santiago de Compostela is one of the more spiritual places in the world, and a site where a wealth of people of faith choose to visit each and every year.

Top Places To Find Faith In Jerusalem

Feb 25, 2015   //   by admin   //   ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on Top Places To Find Faith In Jerusalem

Whether you choose to join one of our Pilgrimage tours at Its Pilgrimages or not there are many wonderful things to experiences in Jerusalem. As one of the most sacred places on the earth, visiting the city can help you to restore full faith in your religion. The history of the city is vast and enwrapped in cultural delights too making it a highly recommended destination.

(via Destination 360)

 

Old City

Many of Jerusalem’s most famous holy places are within the Old City walls. There are a number of different things to see within the walls including the Western Wall, Temple Mount and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Old City itself is a series of alleyways and shops selling souvenirs, clothing and food. The cultures alone in each quarter – Christian, Jewish, Armenia, Muslim – bring their own unique ambiance. A trip to the Old City will completely open up Jerusalem’s history, theology and archaeology.

 

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Widely known as the holiest site to Christianity, the church commemorates the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb. Originally built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, the church has seen many changes throughout history but has largely remained a completely holy sanctuary. Described as a church of churches, it invites six different Christian groups.  Greek Orthodox, Franciscan (Catholic), Armenia, Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian believers all share the blessed building with their traditions.

 

White Father’s Compound

Another site within walls of the Old City, White Father’s compound is a quiet retreat which is the perfect escape from all of the bustle in the city. A Crusader chapel and the ruins of a Byzantine church lie within the compound. The area is of particular Biblical significance due to it being where Jesus performed one of the two miracles in Jerusalem (John 5 references Jesus curing a cripple of 38 years).

 

(via Thousand Wonders)

 

Haram el-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary

On the plaza at Temple Mount lies the Dome of the Rock, a beautiful temple of gold and blue tile. It is one of the earliest examples of Islamic architecture and has retained its extravagance throughout history. It is thought that the temple is where Jesus spent a large amount of his time. Taking a moment to experience the heavily religious site will bring comfort and belonging to many.

 

Siloam Pool in the City of David

Take a tour of the ancient City of David, the city that King David made the capital of his kingdom, to understand the importance of water in the religious history of Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s Tunnel brought the water of the Gihon Spring to the Siloam Pool. The pool is where Jesus performed the second miracle, curing the blind man, as found in John 9.The water is believed to have healing properties and many seek cleansing in the pool.

 

If you want to experience faith in Jerusalem why not sign up to one of our pilgrimage tours. Here at Its Pilgrimage we offer a number of different tours that take you across all of the holiest sites in Jerusalem. Contact us for further information. Our blog has a lot more tips to get you started on your pilgrimage.

 

The History Of Christianity In Rome

Jan 29, 2015   //   by admin   //   ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on The History Of Christianity In Rome

Although religion was a very important part of the lifestyle of Romans, Christianity was banned in the Roman Empire. Many religions filtered their way through the Empire but Christianity was initially forbidden. The Romans believed that their success as a world power was due to their collective religious piety, and that any religion beyond their own to the Roman gods could jeopardise them. Here at Its Pilgrimages we decided to delve into the history of Christianity in Rome.

 

 

Why were Christians persecuted?

In the first few centuries AD, Christians were often prosecuted and punished for their religion. During some periods though, Christians were secure from prosecution. Due to these mixed feelings it is believed that specifically personal or local hostilities were the reason behind individual Christians being targeted.

 

Certain immoral charges, such as incest and cannibalism, were made as accusations. This was probably the result of a misunderstanding of the Christian celebrations of agape (the ‘love feast’) and the Eucharist (partaking of the body and blood of Christ).

 

Pagans were especially suspicious of Christians because they did not and refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. This was seen as an insult to the gods and potentially put the empire in danger if good relations with the gods were not upheld. Christian refusal to offer sacrifices to the emperor was also interpreted as treason.

 

When did things start to change?

History dictates that the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and that his reasoning was somewhat miraculous. Although previous emperors had been hostile or indifferent to Christianity, Constantine paved the way for more liberal religious worship. It is believed that his conversion was either the result of a vision or a dream in which Christ guided him to fight under Christian standards.

 

Despite the shift, many of his actions remained pagan and his style of ruling was not markedly changed. It wasn’t until the early fourth century that Christianity was properly and devoutly adopted by Constantine. Only then was it made fully legal with churches being built in Rome and throughout the Empire. By AD 391, the worship of other gods was made illegal.

 

Did Christianity triumph in Rome?

Although Constantine’s conversion was a big and victorious step for Christians, there was no ultimate triumph where Christians overcame the pagans. Progress in the Roman Empire was slow and hesitant with many pagans choosing to adhere to their old faith.  Now paganism may have dissolved as an imperial religion but it posed a powerful and political challenge to Christianity throughout history.

 

Find out more about Rome’s religious importance by joining our Rome and Assisi tour. To get further details or to make an inquiry about booking, contact our team today. View our blog at Its Pilgrimages for reasons to go on a pilgrimage and the wonderful places you can encounter that are rich with religion.

What Can You Expect From a Jerusalem Tour?

Nov 18, 2013   //   by admin   //   ITS Blog  //  Comments Off on What Can You Expect From a Jerusalem Tour?

Jerusalem is one of the most sacred places on earth with thousands of people taking pilgrimages there every year. Here are some of the most popular sites to visit when in Jerusalem:

Mount of Olives – many of the events of Passion Week occurred here and it was also the place where Jesus spent his last few hours praying. There are a number of churches on this sacred site including the Paternoster Church, the Church of Dominus Felvit and the Church of Agony. The Chapel of Ascension sits at the top of the Mount of Olives.

Mount Zion – this is the site of the Last Supper as well as the Pentecost and is seen an exceptionally spiritual place.

Via Dolorosa – walking this is a highlight for most pilgrims. This sacred walk sees Jesus’ last journey recreated, through to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is the site of the crucifixion and resurrection.

Pool of Bethesda – a site where Jesus cured a frail man who then got up and walked after years of being infirm.

Monastery of the Cross – according to ancient tradition this monastery is built where the tree which supplied the wood for Jesus’ crucifixion once stood.

A city tour – this will encompass the western wall, western wall tunnel, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Knesset and the Israel Museum. A city tour can sometimes take days to complete – evidence of just how many sacred sites Jerusalem is home to.

Dome of the Rock – situated at the centre of Temple Mount, this beautiful temple is where Jesus is thought to have spent a large amount of his time. Today, it is at the very core of a bitter dispute between Palestinians and Israelis.

En Karem – situated to the south west of Jerusalem, pilgrims visit here to see the Church of the Visitation, the Church of St John the Baptist and the Cave of John the Baptist.

Planning a pilgrimage to Jerusalem can be hard because of the sheer amount of sites to fit in.  Book one of our pilgrim tours and we’ll do all the hard work for you – planning out each and making sure you don’t miss a thing.

 

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