Today is mirror-pilgrimage day. There are many forms of pilgrimage. But what most people think of is fairly straightforward: 1. travel to some holy place, 2. receive a benefit, and 3. return home, changed, usually with 4. tokens of the visit.
Not today. This is a strange day, at least in Christian tradition. Yesterday was Good Friday, the remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion. Tonight’s Vigil and tomorrow morning’s Easter Sunday are all about resurrection. But there are some missing hours there. What did Jesus do in between?
The Jesus Testament (I stole this term from my friend Allen Jorgenson) is strangely quiet about this dark, in-between, un-day. Jesus-believers eventually came up with the doctrine of katábasis, the so-called descensus ad inferna – the descent to hell. To me it’s the perfect mirror-pilgrimage: 1. Jesus, the ultimate pilgrim, travels not to the place of holiness but to the place of ultimate UNholiness. There, instead of receiving a benefit from some saint’s surplus of merit, the tradition is that 2. Jesus shared the benefit of his own, breaking the walls of hell and liberating all the captives of Satan. And instead of bringing back a compostela in 3. the resurrection, 4. Jesus’ pilgrim badge, his keepsake, was the long train of ‘souls’ he brings back with him on Easter morning.
Mirror-pilgrimage day. Don’t go out and buy a card. As a new holiday I don’t think it has a lot of traction. But it’s an interesting thought.