I (Jon) can’t believe it, I am my final night’s stay on the Camino, a mere 4km from Santiago. Krysti and I attempted our longest day yet to arrive tomorrow in time for the pilgrim’s mass taking place at noon.
This was two stages in one, I don’t think I’ve ever walked continuously this far, approximately 24 miles…
We arrived, I took my customary nap, showered and by accident we found ourselves part of mass at the chapel near the grove of eucalyptus above our 400 person albergue. I had been drawn in there because of the solitude, it’s modesty inside, and a much needed opportunity to get on my knees, off my feet. But when I opened my eyes because of some ambient guitar music being played behind me, I found the chapel filled or filling with people, the priest getting ready, and it was too late to leave so we decided to stay.
Vespers in Spanish according to a Roman Catholic liturgy is a strange experience for me. I catch only words in a sea of sentences whose meaning I can only guess at. There is mention of Mary, and many opportunities to cross oneself. Because I know the liturgical shape of these services from my own experience in Lutheran liturgical tradition, I am grateful for the moments when I come to a part I know, and anticipation seizes me. But then the words in English are vapid, and escape my memory it’s been so long since I was immersed in that language and I am voiceless.
After walking 600+ km, I am desperate for worshipful moments. In Spain, a land filled with crucifixes, I find it hard nevertheless to enter into complete quietness with Jesus.
Where here is he followed as resurrected Lord, offering living embrace? I only ever see him dead, crucified or else recumbent. No wonder the people find such genuine connection with their saints, whose skin color is still rich with life and gesture beckoning. These figures, portrayed everywhere as living, inspire great deeds and great walks, though they are long dead. Their bones are somewhere in a grave. But Jesus is everywhere pallid, greenish, ghoulish and dying who is alive and in the flesh this moment now more than any. Does he inspire here? Or only his saints, or his dear mother? Am I the only one seeking somewhere to find HIM? For this reason I always feel like an outsider during mass.
Tomorrow we will arrive at the great cathedral that has been our destination all this time, and I have heard that all pilgrims have an opportunity to hug a statue of St. James, guardian and patron saint for Pilgrims, and Spain. But I would much prefer to find and hug Jesus himself. I hope I can find him.
Dinner at the nearby bar/restaurant was a hamburger with bacon, cheese mushrooms and hot sauce, French fries and a coke. A worthy dinner for my last night as a traveling pilgrim. A bit ridiculous also.
My feet are very sore, as they should be for such a long day, and as we head in for the night we pass the chapel, filled now with a raucous band of musicians playing tambourines shofars and guitars. We think they are gypsies but aren’t exactly sure, they are burning much incense and holding banners– it’s too hazy to make out what’s on them even though I am very close by. Curious but cynical but also still very spiritually thirsty, we go back in to see what it’s all about. Our hostel locks up in 15 minutes so we keep a close watch on our clock so as not to get lost in time.