Pilgrims on a journey

Today has had a more theological, cultural, historical feel to it. Each day begins with a Mass in the chapel in the Hospederia where we are stying. One of the local bishops presides. In the homily this morning the bishop made some interesting comments about those who walk the Camino.

He was commenting on the fact that many of the people walking the Camino are not fully signed up Christians, in fact many are not people of faith at all. He said that this does not matter. The truth is that God has made us all brothers and sisters and that God’s love extends to all. They are as entitled to walk the way as are we. We can often imagine, he said, that they are walking with us but, he encouraged us, we should think of it as us walking with them. I found this very helpful and it completely echoed what I had been thinking about, the arrogance that comes from possesiveness, when we imagine that we ‘own’ something, or that the way we view something is the only way to view it. There needs to be much more openness and conversation between the people of the Camino, whatever the reason is that they embark on the walk.

From beginning with the Mass the first speaker took us through our biblical knowledge of St James. A speaker yesterday commented that many people on the Camino have no idea who St James was and is and that this included Christians who should know. So the speaker took us to Bathsaida and the Sea of Galilee, through the call of the fishermen, the moment on the road when James’ mother (or was it them) asked for special favours for her tow sons (John was the brother of James) and then through the passion and resurrection to James’ own marytydom. It was a good overview.

Subsequent speakers then took us through art, symbol and literature into the traditions surrounding St James and Compostela. The history is fascinating and especially the relationship with the three historic symbols or are they emblems, associated with Santiago and the Camino.

Pilgrim with a bag

Pilgrim with a bag

The first is the ‘bolos’ the bag that any pilgrim would carry. We were told that the pilgrim bag is the thing that tells us that someone is a pilgrim. The second symbol is the shell and this tells us that the pilgrim is on their way to Santiago. I was interested to learn that the shell used to be given on arrival at the Shrine as it was the symbol of the Cathedral and the Chapter here and was later adopted as a sign by those on their journey.

.. and with a shell

.. and with a shell

The final of the three symbols is the cross. The Santiago cross, which seems to resemble a dagger and is certainly florid and decorated has had a long history and has been associated over time with the military Order of Santiago, hence perhaps, the similarity with a sword. Now most people associate it with the design on the top of the Santiago Cake (I posted the recipe for this beautiful cake earlier in this blog).

The Santiago Cross

The Santiago Cross

This is a place rich in history but it is history which is having to relate to a modern, secular, searching, hungry world and needing to do so in such a way that embraces and befriends and evangelises those who walk the Way today, who we walk with.

For all who walk the Way,
Lord, we give you thanks and praise.
Amen.

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