One of the gifts that the Church received in the second half of the 20th Century was the liturgical renewal movement–both in the Roman Church as well as Protestantism. Ironically, both happened in response to the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. There was an explosion of interest and activity in rewriting our liturgies loosely based on the same text given to the church by Hippolytus.
I have always relished that when I, a United Methodist, lead worship it is essentially in the same shape (and using many of the same words) as all the other flavors and tribes of Christianity. It has helped us live a little closer to Jesus’ prayer that we might be one.
Walking into a pilgrim mass, I didn’t know what to expect but in retrospect I should have. The priest was praying many of the same words I do when I lead worship. So I could connect with the service. Also, this meant that when there were congregational responses–the Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, the Benedictus Qui Venice, the Memorial Acclamation, or others I not only knew where we were in the service but I could join in and pray the prayers in my own language.
Walking away from the Pilgrim Mass, my friend (an Episcopal Priest) and I were reflecting upon this phenomenon. We were approached by a younger British pilgrim–whom I believe remember her saying she started in Paris. She asked us if we understood the service so we explained not exactly the Spanish but how we knew the same service in English. She was someone who was not a person of faith but attended the masses. She had walked for weeks on end and these last 100km were valedictory as much as anything.
She kept asking questions… there was an openness there. Probably not looking to profess faith in Christ but at least process what she had experienced along this Christian pilgrimage route.I regret that as we were all turning towards the restaurants we parted company with her. My friend wanted pizza and, apparently, it was in a different direction.
We have so much more in common than what separates us and there’s a real strength in that. It seems as if we’re so bent to be original and innovative in the fleeting moment that we forget the rich shared language we have as a resource.
I think this rich legacy might be part of the renewed interest in The Way of St. James. We can speak of Ley Lines, the Milky Way, or even appropriate whatever sensibilities. But the Camino is deeply rooted in a 1,000 year old Christian tradition. And there’s power in that. There was no difference in the dirt I walked on in Spain versus the dirt I walk on in the Georgia Mountains. The purpose is different, the destination is different and who has walked on that dirt is definitely different–Francis of Assisi, El Cid, Charlemagne, even Jed Bartlett!!
Tying into a deep tradition and finding belonging are two of the pieces I think churches need to pay heed to. How do we help those walking into our doors find those things without having to fly across the Atlantic? And how do we help people ask their questions, process them, and either ask deeper questions or live into the responses?
Yeah, there’s lessons for the Church on the Camino, as well.