Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year in Review: Thirteen things

Robbert van der Steeg @CC

The year had far more than thirteen graces to gather up, but here is a start.

  1. I wrote two articles for Slate magazine on chemophobia and doing science outside the lab.  Best parts?  Listening to The Boy do a dramatic reading of the comments on the chemophobia one, and staying up till all hours to write them with Crash for virtual company.
  2. Revisiting the Spiritual Exercises in Lent, for this project at DotMagis.
  3. We had two car crashes in twenty minutes.
  4. I have a new red MINI Cooper.  (4. is not unrelated to 3.)
  5. Getting to experience James Turrell's Perceptual Cell at LACMA.
  6. Retreat.  Silence.
  7. Retreats.  Preaching them.
  8. The US Open came to town.  I rode my bike and went for a day with Math Man.
  9. Traveling with my students — both through space, from Wernersville to Japan and back — and through time, from the desert fathers and mothers to Merton and Annie Dillard.
  10. Writing for Homilists for the Homeless.
  11. Watching The Boy sing The Modern Major General.
  12. Picking up Crash at Wonderful Jesuit University after his first year.
  13. Going to the ACS meeting in New Orleans with The Boy.

Women at the Ambo: Finding family outside our comfort zone

Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Family, which somehow found me at Mass minus any of my family, unceremoniously stuffed into a too-small alb as I walked into the church and serving as an acolyte. A duty that left me sitting in splendid isolation on the side of the altar, apart even from my Church family. Humming the Gloria under my breath as I stood holding the sacramentary for the presider,  I was out of my comfort zone in so many ways.

The presider's homily was a letter he'd written to the parish (which I'd already read).  It was a fine homily on the keeping of bits of Christmas around throughout the season, rather than dragging it all to the curb on the 26th, but that's not an issue for my household.  So I was delighted to come home to find that my friend Fran was out of her comfort zone in writing a homily for the Feast Holy Family in Naked and You Clothed Me.

What kind of family are we being invited into by God?  Would we flee the comforts of our usual orbits if God called us?  You can hear/read the rest of what Fran had to say at There Will Be Bread, it's worth reading even when it's not the Feast of the Holy Family!  Christ is all in all.

I will add that all the proceeds from the book of homilies that Fran (and I and twenty-four others) contributed to go to the poor.  You can buy the book and it's companion for Cycle C at the publisher's web site.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Of you my heart has spoken

What gift did Jesus get this morning?
Of you my heart has spoken: 
“Seek his face.” 
Psalm 27

I'm in the midst of reading To the Field of Stars, Kevin Codd's memoir of walking to Compostela.  It reminds me a bit of Paul Mariani's Thirty Days: On Retreat with St. Ignatius, a well-fermented mix of the mundane — what's for dinner, how to fix a blister — and the spiritual.   To be a pilgrim is to be reminded that the sacred does not subsist only inside the box, whether its inside the Churches or inside of particular times, but we walk on sacred ground all of the time.

I cantored Christmas Eve mass, singing the psalm in two-part harmony with The Boy.  The liturgy was gorgeous, the music flowed forth from hearts and souls, from choir and congregation.  The homily was inviting, but challenging, warm without being saccharine or overdone - can we let God come to love us? Communion came. "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof..." I prayed, then launched into the incipit for the communion hymn.  I was ready for Christ to come in the midst of this sacred and well wrought liturgy, anxious to receive.

The communion hymn ended just as the last communicant received, perfectly timed.  I looked down, turned the page in the cantor's book to the closing hymn, and when I looked up, it was to see the Eucharistic ministers sweep past on their way to the tabernacle.  All but one.  A cup bearer with an empty cup stood waiting.  We looked at each other and both headed to the tabernacle.  In my attempts to maintain decorum and to avoid tripping over the sopranos, I reached the altar steps just as they turned the key and left.  There would be no Eucharist for me, it seemed.

I felt like one of the shepherds, too young, too short, too old, too out of breath to keep up with the rest, who arrives at the stable only to see the last sparkle as the angels rise like incense up to heaven, and the midwife swings the door to the stable firmly shut on the finally sleeping babe and his parents, shooing sheep, shepherds, and cats before her.

At the ambo, after receiving Communion!
Mass ended with a resounding Joy to the World, people swirled around wishing each other Merry Christmas, the church slowly emptied and the musicians began rearranging for the morning's liturgies.  Suddenly the woman who had waited appeared.  Would I like to receive?  Yes, please.  (Yes, I know it's not technically permitted.)

We walked to the tabernacle and as she turned to open it, another of the Eucharistic ministers appeared, fussy and apologetic for having forgotten the cantor. The door to the tabernacle was stuck, both sacristans appeared, suddenly it seemed there was a multitude there with us on the altar.  This was not how I wanted to be disposed as I received, in the middle of a huddle, with three or four people talking to me at once!

The USCCB reminds us that the communion procession is a reminder of our status as pilgrims.  Pilgrims walk in sacred time, along hallowed paths - complete with blisters, noisy trucks, overtalkative companions and well laid plans that quickly fall by the side.  I walked that night to encounter God incarnate, to meet Him in the midst of a noisy crowd, held out to me by someone who saw my hunger, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ under my feet.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Light from light

It's Christmas Eve and I'm sitting in our back room, awash with light from the low winter sun. The creche sits on the window ledge, the Magi still in the midst of their long journey, ways deep and weather sharp.Mary is brought to her knees in labor, Joseph is holding aloft his lantern — looking, I think, for the midwife the innkeeper promised to send.  The shepherd's attention is still on his sheep, one slung over his shoulder while he looks at a newborn nuzzling his mother for milk.  The angels lay sprawled in the greens, resting up for their big night.  Light from Light.

The children are just stirring behind me, the floor creaks as they ease from bed into the shower, old enough now to drive a car.  Unimaginable that these are the same sons who I once held in my arms, held within my very self.   Unimaginable that this child Mary is struggling to bring to birth — that we still struggle to bring into the world — is God from God. 

My own sons' cells still course through my veins. Mary, I want to say, this child will never leave you, not even until the end of time. "To that which you are," Augustine says, "you answer: 'Amen'"  Consubstantial, one in Being.

To which I say, "Amen."

*From Eliot's Journey of the Magi; listen to it here.

Looking for more light?  Read Robin's light-infused, tender Christmas Eve sermon, which redeems even physics for the equation averse.

Or ponder Chris Satullo of WHYY reflection on the meaning of Christmas here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas lists: Feeding the hungry

Br. Mickey McGrath's beautiful
cover for "Hungry, and you fed me."
I am a listy sort of person (yes, yes, INTJ) , right now there is one on the board in the kitchen listing the things to bake and a few nagging chores that I would like to attend to before the Feast of the Nativity dawns.

Math Man wondered the other morning what I might want for Christmas.  The Boy has been trying to figure something out, too.  I was ready for Math Man -- no jewels, a plumber's snake to unclog the drain in the upstairs shower would be a gift I would cherish.  A working bathroom particularly after the months of renovation would be a delight, a gift to remember each and every morning.  To The Boy, I confessed I have everything I want.

They tried again at dinner, at which point I came out with it: what I really want is clear surfaces (a virtual impossibility in this house full of academics), and a modicum of order in the house.  That, the Boy pointed out, is not the life I have chosen.  Nor, he assures me, would I want my life that tidy.

But their queries, and a post by two friends on the ten things that you don't think of that food banks might need most,  have me thinking about wish lists -- and people who are hungry.

Here is my wish list, of things to add to the list that I regularly pick up when I shop to put in the box my parish keeps at the back of the church:
  • Diapers and wipes (a real need for poor working mothers)
  • Protein:  tuna, peanut butter
  • Toiletries:  shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes
  • Feminine supplies:  tampons and pads (yep, are you going to put that in the church bulletin?)

Philabundance's high priority list at the moment is:
  • Canned/ Shelf-stable tuna 
  • Macaroni and Cheese 
  • Canned Pasta, Beef Stew, and Chili 
  • Creamy Peanut Butter Jelly 
  • Canned Green Beans and Corn 
  • Canned Fruit 
  • Breakfast Cereal and Hot Cereal
Finally, many food banks can use money - to fill in where donations do not match needs, and which they can stretch further than I can stretch my dollars.

Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down, however much it may talk about social issues or criticize governments. It will easily drift into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talk. — Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 207

Worship is not one thing and living another.  The synagogue is not a retreat, and that which is decisive is not the performance of rituals at distinguished occasions but how they affect the climate of the entire life. — Abraham Heschel

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent at CatholicPhilly: An Inconvenient Walk

Borrowed pilgrim staff from my trip to Japan.
We were on sabbatical one year in California, when the boys 2 and 4; we would drive back from my parent's house near San Miguel back up to Pleasanton.  We would leave after dinner on Sunday night, the boys would fall almost instantly asleep and Victor and I would have unrushed time to talk together.

We'd stop at the midway point in the 3 hours drive, at the In-N-Out Burger in Salinas, get a chocolate shake which we'd share.  My warm memories of those drives prompted me to wonder what Mary and Joseph might have talked about as they walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem...

I wrote this in one go while stealing a night away at the old Jesuit novitiate.

This column appeared at CatholicPhilly.com on 20 December 2013.

It’s 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. One foot placed in front of another, from morning until night began to close in. A week’s travel if you could keep up the pace, perhaps 10 days if you could not.

I wonder what Mary and Joseph talked about as they walked, in these last few days before their child was born. Did they turn over the events that had set them on this path together? Visits from angels, dreams. Did they wonder if they were prepared for this baby to finally arrive, ready to parent a child who will be called Son of the Most High? Did they talk about their hopes for this son promised to them, who would be God-with-us?

Hark, hear the bells, we carol as these last few days of Advent evaporate almost before our eyes. The day-to-day world is blaring a Christmas countdown; “only seven shopping days left,” prattled the radio when I got in the car this morning — to make in 90 minutes a trip just a shade shorter than Mary’s arduous trek two millennia ago.

The readings at daily Mass in this last week of Advent bound across the months, leaping from Gabriel’s unsettling visit to Zechariah in the sanctuary one day to the Annunciation the next, and we rush to hear the news of the birth of John the Baptist. Haste, haste, we hurtle toward Christmas.

Yet I keep coming back to Mary and Joseph’s long walk. It was not a headlong rush through the final days of her pregnancy, but a deliberate placing of one foot in front of the other. A tacit acknowledgement that whatever was to come, they were here, now, in this place. Waiting. Wandering. Wondering.

St. Cyril of Alexander, writing in the fifth century, says of the journey: “the occasion of the census conveniently caused the virgin to go to Bethlehem, so that we might see another prophecy fulfilled.”

Convenient isn’t quite the word I would use for an 80-mile trip whether on foot or aback a donkey while nine months pregnant. I confess, too, that I have a difficult time seeing this journey to Bethlehem as one leg of a Divine scavenger hunt.

I wonder rather if Luke was inspired to set down this one bare line about Joseph’s response to the census called by Emperor Augustus, “he went to be registered with Mary … who was expecting a child” (Lk 2:5), to remind us not to rush through these final days of Advent, visions of mangers and choruses of angels already dancing in our heads.

Instead let us hear God’s invitation to walk these paths slowly with Mary and Joseph. To wonder again at the events set in motion so many centuries ago. To ask ourselves if we are prepared to welcome Christ not as a babe, but in those who are hungry, those who thirst. To dare to hope that God might yet come to dwell in us.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Walking to Bethlehem

I'm up at the Jesuit Center for the night, sitting in the reception area and checking up on my students taking their finals -- for I have eaten of the tree of knowledge, and now know there is wi-fi here.  My editor at CatholicPhilly wondered if I might write something about how the fourth week of Advent, so rarely even a true week, gets subsumed under Christmas' proximity.  Which got me thinking...and writing.  The photos is from my walk....

St. Cyril of Alexander dismisses Mary and Joseph’s journey as a plot device: “the occasion of the census conveniently caused the virgin to go to Bethlehem, so that we might see another prophecy fulfilled.” Convenient isn’t quite the word I would use for an 80-mile trip whether on foot or aback a donkey while 9 months pregnant, and I’m pretty sure Mary wouldn’t describe it that way either. I have a tough time seeing that 80-mile journey to Bethlehem as nothing more than one leg of a Divine scavenger hunt.

 I’m wondering what Mary and Joseph talked about as they walked, for a week or ten days. What did they say to each other around the fire each night? Was God’s hope we would see this journey not so much as checking off another prophecy, but a way to model for us contemplative prayer?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Women at the ambo: The ways deep and the weather sharp

In quiet and trust from Michelle Francl on Vimeo.

“A cold coming we had of it
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow. — T. S. Eliot from Journey of the Magi

On Monday I spoke at St. Simon Stock parish in Berlin, New Jersey.  I was to return last night, but the National Weather Service predicted freezing rain and "sharp weather" (to quote T.S. Eliot, which I do to start the reflection).  So instead, I spent last night tucked up in my study, learning to use iMovie.  The results are posted above.  Having done it once, I now know how to do a better job, and I'll try to put up part I on the weekend.

From the reflection:

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel):  “God’s word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking.”

Are we ready to become all flame?  Pope Francis is beautifully blunt.  Ready or not, he says, we ought to step forward:
Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others..."

Could I ask for the grace to assent to that unruly, ungraspable Light, that which I cannot cup in my hands, that which I cannot stop from pouring forth? Can I ask, however intemperately, to be set alight?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent at CatholicPhilly: The hidden calendar

Annunication, illustrating
Matins in the Castle Hours 2
Today (the 11th) is the feast of St. Damasus - a deacon elected Pope in 366 who commissioned St. Jerome's translation of the Bible into Latin. He also pushed more of the vernacular into the celebration of the Mass - yes, the Latin Mass was originally Mass in the vernacular, Greek was the sacred language of the early Church!  Vatican II's incorporation of the vernacular was nothing new.

This column appeared at CatholicPhilly.com on 10 December 2013.

“What’s this list at the front with all the lines in red?” wondered one of my students, her gloved hands hovering over the text. We were on a class trip to Bryn Mawr College’s rare book collection, to see some of the 14th century Books of Hours it houses. These books held collections of prayers, psalms and scriptures — and lists of Church feasts, highlighted in red or blue or gold according to their importance.

My well-worn breviary was out on the table, too, with the modern General Roman Calendar in the front, a tattered violet ribbon still marking the prayers and readings for the feast celebrated earlier that week, for the apostles Simon and Jude. No gold anymore for the solemnest of feasts, but red print still calls out the intricate details of the Church’s liturgical calendar.

The broad strokes of the Church year are hard to miss. Lent’s unrelenting violet, the white of Eastertide that leads to the steady stretch of Ordinary Time green that shepherds us from summer’s warmth and autumn, are on display every Sunday and on the occasional holy day of obligation. But there is a hidden calendar woven through the major seasons, minor feasts of saints and blesseds unconnected to the seasons, and solemnities, which unlike All Saints or the Assumption, we are not obliged to celebrate with attendance at Mass.

I have to admit I treasure the quiet small feasts tucked into the calendar. I look forward each year to St. Mary Magdalene feast on July 22, the antiphons for the psalms and canticles reminding me of the poignant scene in the garden on Easter morning: “My heart burns within me; I long to see my Lord.” Each feast and memorial reminds me of the myriad of ways in which this longing for God has been expressed over the millennia in the lives of ordinary people.

In Advent we might watch not only for Christ’s coming to us at his birth and in his return at the end of time, but also for his presence to us in the lives of the saints. Already we have celebrated the feast of St. Ambrose — dear to me for his connection to St. Augustine, whom he baptized at the Easter Vigil in 387. Fourth century martyr St. Lucy’s feast of light brightens Friday the 13th this year.

Peter Cansius SJ
Jesuit priest St. Peter Cansius, whose feast on the 21st lies in the shadow of Christmas, had a profound mystical experience when he was blessed by the Pope Paul III, seeing Christ clothing him with peace, love and perseverance and sending him to preach the Gospel, a call we have heard echoed again and again this Advent by Pope Francis.

I listen to the call of St. John of the Cross — whose feast is Dec. 14 — not just in Advent, but year round, to “dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or limit.” As we begin the new liturgical year, we might resolve to dig more deeply into the richness of the Church’s calendar and to explore the many pockets of grace that the saints hold open for us.

The modern equivalent of books of hours often come as a subscription, for example Magnificat or Liturgical Press' Give Us This Day (full disclosure, I write reflections a few times a year for Give Us This Day).

The official calendar of the Church can be found on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website. Like the calendars in the medieval books of hours, the days are colored violet, green, white and red (for feasts of martyrs).

You can explore Bryn Mawr College’s collection of Books of Hours and read more about the Church calendars here.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

A Time of Waiting

Advent is for waiting.  The Boy, never a waiting kind of guy, is nevertheless getting a full measure of the season.  MIT has announced that early action decisions will be up at 12:14 on 12/14. That's next Saturday in case you don't have a calendar handy.

What once had seemed so far off, a distant, fuzzy sort of thought, has suddenly become a very real pit in his stomach.  Waiting, he has discovered, is not a linear (nor a rational) thing.

He's managing his anxiety in various ways, including crocheting (and house chores - woot!).  We poked around Ravelry on Friday night and found a pattern for a crocheted bow tie (since The Boy can now tie a bow tie, as well as a regular tie three different ways), along with a ball of neon lime green wool from his stash.  I kept him company and learned a new knitting stitch.

NEWS FLASH:  The tie is done, The Boy just bounced into my office to show it off, now he's off to block it.  If you want a crocheted bow tie in a neon color, now might be a good time to ask The Boy.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Advent at CatholicPhilly: Impatient with joy

The Visitation
I've been reading Evangelii Gaudium slowly and reflectively, no skimming to see what lies ahead (though I did find the closing prayer while looking for endnotes!)  If you can read the Spanish in which Pope Francis composed it, do; I'm finding it both more beautiful and powerful than the English translation.  He stretches the language in ways that remind me of Rahner.

Brother Mickey McGrath's work is ever full of joy.  You can find the painting of the visitation I refer to here.

This reflection appeared on CatholicPhilly.com 4 December 2013.

It is Advent, a season of waiting, a celebration of expectation. There is a lot of waiting going on at my house these days, though nothing quite yet to celebrate. Chris sent off his applications to college in mid-September and he expects to hear back some time in the next two weeks.

The waiting has left him off-balance, uncertain. He sorts the mail with an anxious edge, is this the envelope? An email from admissions at one of his chosen schools starts his heart pounding, until he realizes the subject line is “December newsletter.” It’s hard to celebrate this kind of waiting, uncertain of the answer and precisely where and when it will arrive. And there is not much he can do, other than sit and wait.

At one level, there is no uncertainty to Advent’s waiting. We know the decision: God sent us His Son. We know the outcome: our salvation. We know the time and the place and the cast of characters of this arrival, the way in which the Word took flesh in an infant, born in a stable. And while we do not know when Christ will return for us again, we are certain of the outcome. He will come in glory, bringing salvation for His faithful.

Unlike high school seniors waiting for their college acceptances, we cannot and should not wait passively for this second Advent. The words of the opening prayer for the first Sunday of Advent encourage us to “run forth to meet your Christ.” The psalm, too, urges us to move, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord!”

I am reminded of Brother Mickey McGrath’s lively painting of Elizabeth greeting Mary, painted for the sisters of the Monastery of the Visitation in Minnesota. Elizabeth smiles warmly, her skirt flying behind her as she runs forth to greet Mary, and the Divine child she bears. She is certain of the news Mary is bringing her, so certain she reaches out to embrace Mary and the God made flesh hidden within her.

Pope Francis’ in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, speaks to us of the joyous good news that impels us to move out of our old orbits. God calls to us to co-labor with him, led by the Spirit. In a thousand ways, God inspires, provokes, guides and walks with us. And we are to go, Pope Francis tells us, rejoicing.

It is not a single moment we await, but we await the Word made flesh again and again in us. In a reflection on Psalm 46, St. Augustine reminded us “I created you, and I recreate you; I formed you and I formed you anew.” We celebrate this newness God grants us in our lives, even as we wait for Christ’s second Advent.

I hope this Advent to give over patiently waiting for God to come to me, but instead, impatient with joy, run forth to meet Christ.

Mary, Virgin and Mother,

you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life

in the depths of your humble faith:  

as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”

to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,

to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

– from the prayer that closes Evangelii Gaudium (“The Gospel of Joy”) by Pope Francis

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Can I pass the Turing test?

Turing Test (XKCD)
Overheard in my kitchen in the midst of the controlled chaos that preceded the serving of Thanksgiving dinner:  "Could you pass a Turing test?"

Translated from the geek this means, "Could you be any more literal minded?"

In challenge similar to several proposed by Alan Turing in the middle of the 20th century, one human interrogates a subject that is either a computer or a human.  If the examiner can't tell whether the subject is an artifical intelligence (AI) or a human, and it turns out to be a computer, the computer is said to have passed the Turing test.  (You can try being the examiner in a Turing test here.  I tried it and could not reliably distinguish between the human and AI responses.  I'm not sure if that just means I don't understand humans.)

Meanwhile one of my students (AK) created an AI version of me.  She interviewed me about my contemplative practice and science, then took the interview apart and put into a story tree algorithm. Now you can click through various responses from the interview, not in the order I said them, but by following threads of your own choosing.

The interview was part of a class project for a psychology course on mindfulness, and I sat in on her presentation today.  Rather than click through it for us, she encouraged us all to explore "Dr. Francl" for a bit, then opened the floor for a discussion.  What I enjoyed most about the process was the deep silence as people wended their way through the interview.  That sounds like me!

Want to talk to me about contemplation, science, cooking and God in all things?  Try interrogating my AI self here:  Interviewing Dr. Francl

I'm curious if you know me IRL what you think of AK's simulcrum.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Come, let us climb the mountain of the Lord!

Random staff drawn from the collection
at a yamabushi's small mountain temple in Japan. 
This semester has felt like a long climb up a mountain.  There have been amazing views, tough stretches — steep and narrow paths — wonderful companions and the occasional blister.  I've been privileged to teach on mindfulness and contemplation in the 360 program at the college, and enjoyed teaching my favorite class ever (Intro to Quantum Mechanics) for what I think is the 25th time.  I've done a lot of writing for several projects that will come out in the next year or so (a book chapter, several encyclopedia entries, reflections for feasts in 2014, retreat talks), and consequently less writing here.

My book club met last night, we're reading Joyce Rupp's Walking in a Relaxed Manner this month, about her experiences on the Camino.  More broadly we were talking about what it means to go on a pilgrimage.  How is it different from a trip to any other destination — Disneyworld is the one that came to mind — but also from the walking or hiking trips many of us have taken? The title suggests it is a slow process, and that is certainly true in these days of buses and trains and cars, but wasn't true in the medieval period, so it can't all be about the speed.

In some ways this has been a pilgrimage time, walking intentionally into a period of time that I expect to change me, that I know will have its discomforts as well as high moments, one that I explicitly named as a sacred time. But then how is that different from any other period of my life?  Are we always pilgrims?

From the reading at Morning Prayer today: Come, let us climb the mountain of the Lord! (Is 2:3)