I’ve opened the curtains on a very overcast day. But that doesn’t matter. We are in Santiago de Compostela, the heavenly city, and so are our friends who have walked here. And, as if that were not enough, two other members of the Cathedral congregation fly out to join us today.
Bryan and Carla walked the Camino eighteen months ago. They began from Le Puy in France and walked all the way here in one go. It was a tremendous achievement on their part and we followed them back home with admiration. I think in many ways it was because of their example that we all decided to make the pilgrimage – in our own ways.
We will spend the day in this wonderful city and this morning return to the Shrine of St James with a guided tour of the cathedral. Its amazing Baroque façade hides the much earlier Romanesque building set on the site where the tomb of St James was discovered back in the eighth century. It will be good to understand the building.
This is the culmination of the Pilgrim route and, as we discovered yesterday, the traditional climax is touching the great figure of the Saint behind the altar. I am certain we will see hundreds of pilgrims arriving to do this. We will join all those who are here in the Pilgrim Mass at noon and see the Botafumeiro (the large incense burner) swing across the sanctuary, from transept to transept.
As part of this Mass I will make the Invocation to the Apostle on behalf of our group and make the offering of incense. I thought it would be good to take some ‘English’ incense and so bought some from the Anglican Benedictine monks at Mucknell Abbey. Abbot Stuart of Mucknell, was a parish priest in a neighbouring parish to mine when I was a vicar in Leeds. I will certainly pray for him and his brethren as I pass over the incense to the clergy at the Cathedral.
I had to prepare the invocation before we set off so that it could be translated into Spanish. So this is what I will say.
Glorious Apostle Santiago
I am Andrew, Dean of Southwark, in London, England and with me are Sister Joyce of the Community of St Francis and pilgrims from the Anglican Cathedral and Diocese of Southwark who have made this pilgrimage by foot and by coach to this Cathedral to stand before your tomb, to give honour to you and praise to Jesus Christ Our Lord.
We have come to this holy place and to your shrine glorious Apostle for so many reasons. Some of us are here to pray for others, living and departed. Some are here to repent of sins committed and to seek the forgiving grace of God. Some of us have come for the sheer joy of companionship in the gospel and some to say ‘thank you’ for all the gifts God has given us throughout our lives.
We believe that by walking in the way we know also the truth and the life which Our Lord Jesus Christ offers to all those who walk the way of life with him. As you were the Lord’s companion we too seek to be disciples not only on this sacred road but on every road we travel.
We believe that the Camino to Santiago is a road to life and a source of goodness and peace in this world. We believe that all who walk the Way are drawn deeper into faith and come to know Our Lord Jesus Christ just as you knew him as His Apostle and friend.
We thank the Archbishop, the priests of the Cathedral and diocese, the staff of the Pilgrims’ Office and everyone in Santiago who welcomes and supports pilgrims. We thank those who provide accommodation and help for pilgrims along the routes to Santiago.
At our journey’s end we salute you, Santiago, for your example of faithfulness to the Gospels and dedication to our Saviour, Jesus Christ and we pledge ourselves to continue in the way of Christ.
And to this great Cathedral we offer this token of our friendship, a box of Incense made in England, and with it we ask you to accept our greetings as brothers and sisters of the Way.
Also for the Mass we were invited to provide one of our number to read the First Reading in English. So Gareth, a member of the walking group, will be doing this.
After time for a lunch break we will have a free afternoon to explore the city further. We will then meet at the Cathedral in a chapel reserved for us at for our Votive Mass of St James. In the evening we will have a traditional farewell dinner in a local restaurant which will include the ‘Quiemada’ drink ceremony. Queimada is a punch made from Galician augardente (Orujo Gallego) – a spirit distilled from wine and flavoured with special herbs or coffee, plus sugar, lemon peel, coffee beans and cinnamon. If it is anything like yesterday’s Galician food it should be delicious.
So a wonderful day ahead of us as we spend time in this place, the home of St James.
Lord God, may all who come to Santiago de Compostela,
following in the footsteps of Christian pilgrims
from many different times and places,
be renewed in the faith which comes to us from the apostles,
in union with the whole church
may we with them commit ourselves generously
to follow Jesus Christ,
who alone is the way, the truth and the life.