With all the trouble spots in the world, of violence, death, destruction, killing, and most recently the murderous killing by IS in Indonesia and Turkey, affecting innocent people, of all faith or none.
I wanted to offer some thoughts on my Pilgrimage Journey & Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain as a Prayer & Meditation for the end to senseless killing and death, which I had made with others in April 2015.
Exhausted but excited after our journey by bus not foot, we entered the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, we assembled for mass. At the end of mass the priest told us “The pilgrimage has not ended, but it’s just beginning as you return home”. Those words have stayed with me for the last ten months and especially as we hear on the news daily about some new killing and atrocity.
“When will it end Lord” I protest like Job, and feel helpless to stop it or influence the hearts and minds of others to end these nightmare killings of the innocent.
As we were about to leave the cathedral after mass, a hugh thurible was let down on a rope at the Pilgrimage Mass on a particular Friday, and a tangible frission of anticipation and excitement stirred throughout the congregation present. The censer weighed 176 ins and stood five feet tall.
The Camino de Santiag, The way of St James, is a spiritual journey that pilgrims of all backgrounds have travelled for over 1,000 years. About 500 miles, it can be as long or as short as you like, by foot, car, bus or plane. In the past the thurible was swung to disguise the smell of the sweaty and smelly pilgrims as they stumbled into the cathedral. That’s why the thurible was waved about to spread some perfume, and send the prayers of the faithful ascending to the presence of God.
Suddenly eight red cloaked men, appeared around the gleaming thurible container, easing it off the ground, getting it to move and sway. The much loved and regularly anticipated spectacle had begun.
Higher and wider it swung across the aisles of the transits, almost touching the curved 69 foot high beams above us. By skilful manipulation the pulley mechanism controls the heart stopping sweeps and swoops of the silver bird thurible, from vault to distant vault, almost touching the floor at the centre of its magnificent 213 foot loop. Packed with incense, it was billowing with smoke, and you could see the flames inside. It plummeted from on high at 43 miles per hour, scraping the ground, elegantly rising again, a dance between heaven and earth. The artistry of it, the wild energy of it, the wonder and excess of it all touched something deep within me and made my spirit soar and my hope for peace with justice and respect in the world in these difficult times increase.
Many of us had no single reason for ‘doing the Camino’; but the impact of the experience remains vibrant for me. I’m still walking the Camino, and I suppose I always was, and always will be -blessings and blisters, being lost and found, the ultimate description of our individual lives, be Christian, Moslem, Jew or a member of the other great world religions.
If our hearts are open it will call us out, the Camino will be our inner teacher, and it calls us out of our many hiding places. The mistakes we make along our way are simply arrows to seeking, finding and worshipping the divine. It points us to an openness of heart, a certain freedom and bigness of heart to welcome the world and every man, woman and child irrespective of the religious label they carry or none. Time for our trapped souls and imaginations to grow bigger and see the world beyond our own special enclave.
The pilgrimage is not just to a place but it’s a personal journey of each one of us, whether we do the Camino or no, towards one’s true and essentially divine self.
This pilgrimage perhaps could be an Christian Ecumenical journey in Chichester of Christian, Jew, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker to truly prayer for peace, understanding, justice and an end to killing and violence in our world, literally to change hearts and minds.
I am seeking a larger self, and a vision far beyond our parochial Christian label barricades. I am who I am I have nothing to prove, to earn, to bargain for any more. I am free to live, to live, to trust the God. Oh if only the Bishops at the Lambeth Conference could be invigorated with that breath and depth of vision.
I like to think that this new and liberating feeling in me and others was connected with what happened on The Way to Santiago Compstela. Now you too must seek the way and be open to everyone and exclude no one from this congregation of All Saints.
Are you ready to open your heart, mind, emotion, life to something vaster more immense than our everyday lives. If not perhaps your not ready for the Comino Way yet but you will one day soon.
Fr David Ingledew
All Saints Church, Hove