This was my Note from the Universe today, the Day of St. James, and my first full day in Santiago. I went to the Pilgrim’s Mass this morning and sat very scrunched up on the tiniest piece of floor (impossible to rise to join the prayers but that's OK with me and my god) and this thought kept coming back to me: don’t ask for what you don’t have, and/or think you might want. Instead, thank whatever forces have brought you to this place in this time for all of the wonderful things you DO have: all the great gifts you have been given. With the release of this thought, I found myself absolutely deluged with all the blessings I have in my life and the feeling was just wonderful. So thank you to “The Universe” (and Mike Dooley) for reminding me.
The fireworks last night in front of the cathedral were quite spectacular as fireworks in general are expected to be, but this time I think even they were superceded by the sound and light presentation which was projected directly onto the Cathedral and its flanking buildings. Since this is the 800th anniversary of the cathedral’s consecration (NOT completion. I have had to put a few people straight on this today) the theme was the history of the Cathedral of Santiago from the time of the “translatio” by sea, the discover y (“inventio”) of the “Apostle’s” body, through the razing of the basilica by Almanzor, the rebuilding, the time of Diego Gelmirez, the Portico de Gloria, the Botefumeiro. We were invited into the nave as the three dimensional projection opened up and swallowed us, the twenty thousand. It was, in short, a brilliant piece of artwork.
Perhaps what I liked most of all was at the very beginning of the presentation: The facade covered in ivy as a red dragon appeared and swirled, devouring the foliage as it did so. Whether the makers of the film were aware of the significance of the Dragon in pagan times, the Celtic reference, I don’t really know. Certainly nothing about it was mentioned in the Galician press today. There is a repeat performance tonight and every night until the 31st when the fuegos artificiales are to be repeated. I am going to go back for more tonight. I am a real sucker for such spectacle, especially where history is concerned.
And, to think that I have written about all of this: in Pilgrimage to Heresy and in St. James’ Rooster ... and here on this blog, of course!
Going back to the thought of gratitude, so much talk today has been of death: Amy Winehouse, and the terrible, terrible tragedy of Norway. The grief of the parents and friends of those children I can not even begin to imagine.
Yet, here in Santiago I have been immersed in LIFE! I find it impossible to get this silly grin off my face whether I am suddenly caught up in a Marxist-Leninist demonstration (not intentionally may I add) or eating so many pimientos de Padron that I swear my skin is taking on a decidedly greenish tinge. I have in years past been to several sites of pilgrimage (which is an odd thing for a Happy Heretic to admit, I suppose). Jerusalem is an exception, and of course there are many others too. But I would imagine in Jerusalem as a pilgrim there would be too much sanctity for me, just as in Lourdes (though I do love the candle-lighters by the Grotto) there is too much near death and disease and despair only assuaged by blind faith. There is Age: one becomes elderly in Lourdes, fragile and mortal. This is not for me. Fatima is just strange. Rome is too Catholic, too much adoration of a man whose decisions and pronouncements and thoughts can never be wrong.
But Santiago is a place of intense JOY. It is youthful, regardless of the age of those who enter it and how they do so: Pilgrims with a sense of purpose they have trailed with them for 100, 200, 500, 1500 kilometers; Peregrinos who may not have known why they had set out or what they were seeking but along the way have found their priorities changed once and for all. And here in Compostela is the pay off. Yippee and throw that old donkey hat in the air. I know. I’ve done it: cried and cried at the sight of that beautiful, almost surreal Baroque front, and been hushed into silence by the builders’ marks on the stones, pillars, and archways. Whomever is buried in the Crypt, Santiago Cathedral simply hums with life and so does its city.
And now, if you don’t mind I am going back for a little more.
More in a few days when I begin my walk to Muxia and the ends of the earth. (Ojala!)
Photo by Francesco di Gregorio, a lovely German from Frankfurt with a very un-German name! I am sure he won't mind my sharing this here...