Gravel road leading to Merton's hermitage. Photo by Harry L. Hinkle
"Man’s free the moment of his contact with God …
The law of freedom is an appropriate theme for today. When those worshippers knelt in homage on the floor of the humble stable with everything else put behind them – their homes, the wilderness, the guiding star, the agony of the city – when all these had lost their value and their impressiveness and the worshippers’ whole being was concentrated in the single act of adoration, the symbolic gesture of laying gifts before the manger signified the achievement of liberty. They were free. " - Fr. Alfred Delp SJ
The “journey” is one of the great spiritual archetypes found in every major religion and culture. Even though Western monks are characterized by geographic stability, monastic life is still viewed as a journey, although essentially an interior one.
St. Benedict, the founder of most Western monastic orders, was skeptical of those who adopted a wandering lifestyle. He made a point to distinguish between authentic spiritual pilgrimage, and what he called “gyrovagism”.
“While the gyrovague is rootless, and therefore cannot really grow, the authentic pilgrim is someone solidly rooted. Either he has a “home” from which he comes and to which he will return at the end of his pilgrimage; or – if he has adopted the existence of a permanent pilgrim – he has found enough inner rootedness to go beyond the supportive environment of a geographical and cultural rootedness.
"The pilgrim is at home everywhere without trying to build a home anywhere. He has a sense of freedom that can easily become a threat to anyone who still finds his security in the fact of belonging to a specific place and group or to a solid system. He is not a good client for the merchants of foreign spiritual goods. The gyrovague, on the contrary, builds temporary homes everywhere he goes, buys all the last products on the market and becomes the naïve disciple of the last self-made master. "