Religious Studies – Pilgrimage Coursework

Christians go on pilgrimages to undergo an experience of a religious nature, which doesn’t mean a vision, it means to go to a place that has great religious significance and undertake a religious activity there. Many Christians feel that pilgrimage is a help to them, that it assists them in praying and that it draws them closer to God and others. Pilgrimages however, do not always have to be religious. Some people might say that they were making a pilgrimage if they were going to see the home of a pop or movie star or to a special football ground.There are no special rules about pilgrimage in Christianity though, over its 2000-year history, many people have made pilgrimages to particular places both in the Holy Land (Bethlehem, Nazareth ; Jerusalem) and in Europe e.

g. Rome (Vatican City) and Lourdes. People make these pilgrimages for many different reasons. Some go to just too see the places where Jesus was or to see particular churches associated with special people or events.Some people go on pilgrimages to strengthen their faith and help them to feel closer to God. Some places such as Lourdes, are associated with healing miracles and people visit there in the hope of a cure, either for themselves, or for people who are close to them.

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In the past, many people went on pilgrimages because they believed that making a special journey to a particular place would gain the indulgences. The idea of an indulgence was that it would prevent you having to stay too long in Purgatory when you died.One example of a place that could be visited on pilgrimage is Bethlehem. Bethlehem is about 8kn (5 miles) from Jerusalem and is believed to have been the birthplace of Jesus. The first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible is when Rachel, the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph, dies there.”So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).

Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.”(Genesis 35:19 – 20)The exact place where Jesus was born was said by Justin Martyr, in the second century, to be a ‘cave close to the village’. This cave is now under the Church of the Nativity which was originally built by St. Helena and later rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian between 527 and 565CE. This is one of the oldest churches in existence.

In the fifth century, St. Jerome built a monastery there and translated the Old Testament into Latin from the original Hebrew. This, together with the translation of the New Testament fro Greek into Latin, which he had carried out earlier, forms the Vulgate Bible which is used by the Roman Catholic Church. Bethlehem now has many churches, convents, schools and hospitals funded by Christians from all over the world.Pilgrims hope to become better people through their pilgrimage. They make a pilgrimage as a penance for their sins.

Some Irish people climb Croagh Patrick (a mountain in special memory to St. Patrick) in bare feet or on their knees as a penance for their wrongdoings. Most of the people who do his have done little wrong but feel sensitive to the wrongs they have done, while others feel visiting a place special to Christ means that Christ becomes more real to them and they are drawn closer to him. Many pilgrims feel that pilgrimage is a journey of the soul, which means, as they make the effort to travel, they are helping their souls go through a journey in which they grow as spiritual people, overcoming faults and coming to love God all more.Pilgrimage is an aid to help Christians with their faith by bringing them closer to God; in addition, pilgrimage helps to increase the knowledge about the pilgrims and their spiritual journey to God and their own awareness of faith.

The journey to pilgrimages has been made easier due to better travel links but a pilgrim can still strengthen their faith and be an inspiration to all by making the travel the old fashioned way, which is a serious physical discipline. This was, as all discipline is, meant to strengthen the soul against all weaknesses Some pilgrims do not go for all the same reasons, most go to pray in large groups and visit religious sites, whilst some go to absorb the atmosphere of the surroundings and from the other pilgrims. Many pilgrims receive a lot of inspiration to continue their spiritual journey with God for now and the future.