Pilgrims across the country and abroad are making final preparations before the annual Easter journey of the Northern Cross pilgrimage to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, in Northumberland. On their way, they provide those who see them with a reminder of the true meaning behind the Christian festival of Easter.
From March 23 to March 31, up to 60 pilgrims will journey through various parts of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, in three or four groups, known as 'Legs'. Most legs will walk around 70 – 120 miles during Holy Week; while one leg group for families is based on shorter daily walks. Another leg (for endurance walkers only) is walking unsupported from St Andrews in Scotland.
Each main leg carries a large wooden cross as a sign of Christian witness. They stay in church and village halls along the route, and join in with people of local churches for worship. The legs will gather together on 29 March, Good Friday, to cross the Pilgrims Crossing to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The dramatic bearing of these crosses over the tidal causeway sands and the arrival onto Lindisfarne on Good Friday morning, will mark the beginning of the pilgrimage's unique celebration of Easter.
Margaret Williams, Overall Coordinator of Northern Cross 2013, said:“Northern Cross is a very unique experience, a week of fellowship that can be tremendously rewarding as we share a common journey of pilgrimage. Participants come from many different backgrounds, denominations and ages, leaving the dull routine of normal life; to enjoy pleasant walking, new friendships, and joyful liturgy. Linked by walking together, we are boosted in many ways through experiencing the beautiful countryside, the local communities and by sharing prayer, worship and song. Ultimately we all have a really good time"
She went on: “You might think of pilgrimage as a medieval concept, yet Christian pilgrimage is alive and well today, as demonstrated each year by the 5 million people who go to Lourdes, or the 200 thousand who walk the Camino di Santiago (as shown in the recent film “The Way”, this is from the Pyrenees to North West Spain). Northern Cross is another example of this. On pilgrimage you are removed from extra possessions, and just require whatever can be carried in a small bag. Cut down to essentials, we are stripped of most trappings of modern living. A pilgrimage is a chance to mirror life, to step back and look to see what the important things are. We can spend the time to look for meanings in life; or to work out things that trouble you, or just to reflect.”
“Northern Cross, and any walking pilgrimage, is a chance to get away from the demands of the world. The destination alone is not solely important – it is a goal – but the important thing is to form a small Christian group of people, travelling together on the road, using each others skills, helping with each other's weaknesses, working as a team to achieve an aim. That community is an important part of experiencing the Easter celebration.”
The pilgrimage began in 1976 and has grown steadily every year. Pilgrims first walked to Lindisfarne from Penrith in 1976, and originally had to carry all their belongings. This evolved to become Carlisle leg (with support vehicles), and subsequently Lanark, Newcastle (then Hexham, now Northumbrian), Haddington, and St Cuthbert’s legs were set up and the routes evolved to those walked today.
On Good Friday morning, 29 March, the groups join up at the tidal causeway to Holy Island and cross the sands to Holy Island at low tide along the ancient pilgrim route, where they celebrate Easter together with the local community. Around 60 or more people will cross the two miles of sands with their wooden crosses.
Legs will start from Lanark, Haddington, Carlisle, and other locations. The pilgrims are linked by their enthusiasm for walking through beautiful countryside (in all weathers), meeting new people in pubs as well as churches, sharing prayer, worship and song, and having a really good time. Chaucer’s pilgrims were a mixed bunch – so is Northern Cross – young and old, from 0 to 70 and above, all walk with us. Most of the route is on small quiet roads, tracks or footpaths and avoids any main roads. Many have walked before and return time and time again. Others walk for the first time this year.
Lindisfarne, a tidal island, was an important centre for the spread of Christianity in the 6th to 8th centuries, and was the home of St Aidan and St Cuthbert. Today the ruined priory, Norman Church and other relics remind us of our Christian heritage, while pilgrims, visitors and the people of Holy Island join together in a joyous celebration of Easter.
Funding support is available to help pilgrims in need, to walk Northern Cross. • Applications to walk can be accepted until the week we start, so it might not be too late to join... contact them now, via the website: www.northerncross.co.uk
or email: email@example.com
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