Thursday, July 25, 2013
Feast Of St James
On the morning of the Feast of St James, I awoke to the news that at least 78 people have died when a train approaching Santiago de Compostela yesterday left the rails.
Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain, is considered to be the resting place of St James' remains, at the end of El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James pilgrim route. Today, the city should be filled with pilgrims, celebrating the patron saint of pilgrims; remembering before God their own journey not only to the cathedral of St James but the bigger journey through life; remembering before God those who have journeyed alongside them and gone ahead; pausing to give thanks and to rededicate themselves before setting out again, on the journey home, on the onward journey through life.
Today, the city should be filled with pilgrims, those who know that life is not a stroll in the park, that it takes discipline, and camaraderie, to keep going; and yet who know that we are rewarded with unmerited gifts, breath-taking beauty, the kindness of strangers. Those who have thankful hearts, and calloused hands and feet.
Today, Santiago de Compostela will experience all this; but subdued, mourning and joy hand-in-hand. For 78 people, their pilgrimage is ended, not in Santiago but with St James himself, waiting within the love of God for the restoration of all things. More of their fellow travellers may yet join them. People who waved loved ones behind and set out from home, not to return. People who travelled with loved ones, only to go on before them.
Today is a reminder that we do not know when our earthly pilgrimage will end. It may be tomorrow, or around many more bends on the Way. For those who, with St James, follow in the footsteps of Jesus, death is not our end; but when heaven and earth are made new, and reconciled, we shall no longer be pilgrims: we shall be citizens, at home.
If we are to journey, as those who do not know when or where our journey will end, we must go lightly - quick to bless others and entrust them to God's care; quick to ask forgiveness where we have caused offence, and to forgive where others have offended us. We will need a staff to lean on and a water-bottle, to be refilled regularly at wayside wells: images of the empowering and life-giving Holy Spirit, and of our need for Spirit-led rhythms of activity and rest. And we will need the humility to trust ourselves, under God, to the hospitality of those we do not know.
May the Feast of St James nourish you on your pilgrimage. St James, pray for us.