No pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela would be complete without being part of the daily pilgrim´s mass. This mass takes place at noon every day. Sunday´s, when some of our group attended, seems to be the busiest. Our mass today had about two-thirds of the people that yesterday´s had with all the same pomp, ceremony, and of course, fire.
We actually had two church services today. Our group was able to arrange for a space to have an end of pilgrimage eucharist service. The amazing thing was that the cathedral offered the crypt of St James as the space for the service. During the day this space is closed and pilgrims can look down a long corridor to see the big silver box theat sits on top of the tomb. We were allowed to have our service right in the crypt.
The ten of us gathered, and our leader and pastor in vestments provided by the church along with the bread and wine, led us in a moving concluding service. We sang, prayed, shared the peace, and even cried a bit. We were and are a community. It was great.
Two hours later, we were back to gather with likely more than a thousand others to celebrate the pilgrim´s mass in the main part of the cathedral. A nun started the service about ten minutes before twelve by teaching us the latin songs that would be part of the service. We did not understand most of the words but did feel a sense of community with all of those who had experienced what we had in the past weeks. Again we joined in the communion meal, this time served to us by a nun.
The highlight of the service is the lighting and swinging of the incense. A huge censor is lit with coals carried into the church. Incense is added by
the priest and then it is set to swinging over the crowd by eight men pulling on the ropes that run over pulleys way up at the top of the church. The burner makes an arch that is likely 120 feet long and reaches heights of about sixty feet. It is amazing to see.
Now our walk is truly done.
We later spent some more time in the church, moving from chapel to chapel. The building is about 1000 years old in places. It is hard to imagine how the builders put it there without the use of the sorts of equipment we have today.
We take a train to Madrid over night tonight. We will do some shopping tomorrow and then get on a plane for the last leg of our pilgrimage.