Pause for thought: Lent
I was talking with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago who was telling me that they had booked themselves onto a pilgrimage this year to Santiago de Compostela in the worth west of Spain.
I don’t know how much you know about the ‘Camino de Santiago’, but there are seven ‘Caminos’ (meaning ‘ways’ or ‘paths’) which lead to Santiago de Compostela, all originating from different places in Spain, Portugal, and France, and all of different lengths. What they all have in common though is that they each converge on Santiago’s impressive cathedral, reputed to be the burial place of Saint James the Great, one of Jesus’ apostles.
A Pilgrim Mass is held daily to celebrate those pilgrims who have completed their chosen ‘camino’. It’s a very moving service attracting an eclectic crowd of varying faiths and none, and if you’re lucky, you’ll experience the swinging of the "Botafumeiro", the famous thurible. It’s the largest censer in the world, weighing nearly 80 kg (180 lb) and measuring 1.60 m (5.2 ft) in height. It takes eight people to pull the ropes and bring it into a swinging motion and it can reach speeds of almost 80 km/h (50 mph). I visited Santiago de Compostela a few years back, and I can tell you, the swinging of the thurible is not for the faint hearted!
I often think of Lent as having something of a pilgrimage feel to it for it has a particular rhythm all its own. It begins with Ash Wednesday, and slowly but surely winds its way towards Palm Sunday and Jesus' arrival into the Holy City. From there the pace seems to quicken as the events of that week unfold, and almost too quickly it feels we find ourselves in the Upper Room as Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and institutes Lord's Supper. We know that Good Friday is coming and are assured that Easter Sunday will follow. We know what is coming. We know what to expect. But we embrace the journey every year.
For many of us this Lenten journey is a well-trodden one. There are signposts along the way, and if we stretch the metaphor a little further, we can think of it a little bit like the ‘camino’ - a sometimes long and winding path through hills and valleys of prayer, devotion, and reflection.
In Lent, we are encouraged to deviate from our usual routines and established tracks, and perhaps to embark on a slightly different journey of faith. People will often join Lenten groups, read a devotional book, or perhaps for a time at least adopt a more disciplined prayer or study regime.
But perhaps most importantly, Lent is a wonderful opportunity to refocus once more on what matters. With one eye on Jerusalem and on Calvary’s hill, the Cross itself looms large, casting an unmistakeable shadow over the landscape through which we are making our pilgrimage. And herein lies our assurance, that no matter how hard our life journey becomes, and no matter how challenging our pilgrimage of faith; in our turning towards the Crucified, Risen and ultimately Glorified Christ, we are reminded of the solid ground, the Rock upon which we stand, not only in Lent, but through every day and season of the year.
Revd Chris Burr
Picture courtesy of Tumisu on Unsplash