280. In the Bible, pilgrimage, with its religious symbolism, goes back as far as that of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to Sichem (cf. Gn 12, 6-7; 33, 18-20), Bethel (cf. Gn 28, 10-22; 35, 1-15) and Mamre (Gn 13, 18; 18, 1-15) where God showed himself to them and made a commitment to give them the “promised land”.
For the tribes of Israel delivered from Egypt, Sinai, the mountain on which God revealed himself to Moses (cf Ex 19-20) became a sacred place and the crossing of the desert became a journey to the promised land: the journey had God’s blessing, the Ark (Num 9, 15-23) and the Tabernacle (cf. 2 Sam 7, 6) symbolised the presence of God among his people, leading them and protecting them by the Cloud (cf. Num 9, 15-23).
When Jerusalem became the place of the Temple and the Ark, it became a city-shrine for the Jews and the object of their “holy journey” (Ps 84, 6), in which the pilgrim encountered “cries of joy and praise and an exultant throng” (Ps 42, 5), and appeared in his presence in “God’s house” (cf Ps 84, 6-8)*
* The significance of the pilgrimage is borne out in the “canticles of ascent”, psalms 120-134, used by those going up to Jerusalem. In their Christian interpretation, these express the Church’s joy as she journeys on her earthly pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem.
Love those Psalms of pilgrimage …
This was the heritage of Jesus and his family, and he makes allusions to a personal pilgrimage in his public ministry:
The men of Israel were obliged to present themselves before the Lord three times each year (cf. Ex 23, 17), in the Temple in Jerusalem: this gave rise to the pilgrimage to the Temple on the feast of the Pasch, of the feast of weeks (Pentecost) and of tents; every religious family, such as that of Jesus (cf Lk 2, 41), went to Jerusalem for these feast of the Passover. Jesus went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem during his public ministry (cf. John 11,55-56); St. Luke presents the saving mission of Jesus as a mystic pilgrimage (cf. Lk 9, 51-19, 45) whose object is Jerusalem, the messianic city, the place of his sacrifice and of his exodus to the Father: “I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I leave the world to go to the Father”(John 16, 28).The Church began her missionary journey during a gathering of pilgrims in Jerusalem when “there were devout men in Jerusalem from every nation under the heaven” (Acts 2, 5) to celebrate Pentecost.
Early in his public ministry (Mark 1) I recall Jesus responding to his disciples after they’ve searched for him in the early morning with the news that people are looking for him. Jesus’ response was to move on to the next town and preach there.
The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.