Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Let me begin with the fact that if I were to live in Spain, it would be in O'Cebreiro. I have always had a fondness for people, places and things where seemingly impossible opposite forces meet and come together. O'Cebreiro is one of those places. The blending of the Catholic with the Celtic, the Christian with the Pagan, results in a kind of magic I have yet to witness elsewhere.

When I made it up the hill to O'Cebreiro. I knew I'd be happy to finish the climb, but I had no idea the effect it would have on me. It was a very difficult climb. More steep, uneven, rocky terrain testing my desire to do this thing to its very limits. But even if I suddenly changed my mind, what difference would that make? I was on some mountain somewhere, with nowhere to go but up. And up. And up...

Earlier, as I left the albergue, I immediately began climbing in elevation. No time to even work myself up to the task. I was absolutely exhausted before I even started. My legs felt like jelly and my lungs felt like they might explode if I took one more step, and I hadn't even left the town I'd stayed in for the night. How was I going to make it 5 more km uphill, with no hope of a break? Well, apparently, one step at a time.

As I climbed, I was more and more broken. For some reason, I just didn't have it in me anymore. The worse I felt, the more the fog enveloped me, making me feel alone, with no way to see where I was headed. Suddenly, I wanted to quit. With all my heart, I wanted no more of this crazy adventure I had undertaken. I'd had enough. I had failed. Someone get me off this mountain. And just as I was seriously ready to give up completely, if I could only find a way, the town of  O'Cebreiro, appeared out of the mist, like some Spanish Brigadoon. I was ready to quit, and yet, I'd made it to the top.

Still feeling exhausted, I made my way into town. The weather had deteriorated, blowing cold, wintry air in my face, the fog so thick I could barely make out the buildings. To my right, I saw the bell tower of the church, and turned in to warm up. It was a beautiful little church, much more simple than the cathedrals I'd visited. It was warm and inviting, with beautiful music playing in the background.

I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere, so I decided to spend a little time there. I walked to the first row and sat down. The sense of relief and accomplishment that overwhelmed me as I settled into that pew was indescribable and I began to cry. Not just a few tears, but big, long, shoulder-shaking sobs. I don't know how long I sat there, just letting the tears flow, not even really knowing what I was feeling, just knowing it was powerful. And then I heard the words, "The hard part is over. Well done!"

At that moment, the bells of the church rang out.  One. Two. Three. There's power in that number for me. I don't know the full meaning of it yet, but someday I'll understand. As I stepped from the dark, warm interior of the church, I noticed the fog had lifted and the sun was shining brightly, welcoming me back out into the world.

Some say that this portion of the Camino symbolizes rebirth. I truly feel as if I have been given new life. I almost quit. In fact, if I could have I would have. That moment right before something really amazing happened. That's a lesson I'll never forget.

1 comment:

  1. Callea, O'Cebreiro is a very special place on earth.

    I knew of the story but I borrowed the following from this website

    Tradition has it that a weary priest was celebrating Mass in the little village church one winter´s day. A peasant from a nearby village, having fought his way to the top of the mountain through a fierce snowstorm in order to hear Mass entered the church just as the priest was performing the consecration. The priest insulted the peasant´s faith and ridiculed him for having come all the way to the top of the mountain in such severe weather in order to witness a non-existent miracle. At that very moment, the bread and the wine on the altar were literally transformed into flesh and blood.

    The Eucharistic miracle of O Cebreiro was confirmed in 1487 by Pope Innocent VIII while the particles preserved from the miracle were placed in a silver reliquary donated by Queen Isabella the Catholic. The Church of St. Benedict (it is also known as Royal St. Mary´s Church) that the pilgrim sees today is not the medieval church in which the miracle occurred; that church was destroyed in the anti-clerical revolutions of the early 19th century. The present church was rebuilt in the years 1965-1971 over the foundations of a pre-Romanesque church uncovered beneath the village´s streets in 1962. All that remains of the medieval church are the baptismal font and the chalice and paten in which the miracle occurred.

    The chalice of the miracle that occurred in O Cebreiro is so important in both the history of the Camino and of the region that it was even incorporated into the shield of Galicia that the pilgrim will undoubtedly see while passing through the region on his or her way to Santiago. Perhaps the miracle of the cock and the hen in Santo Domingo de la Calzada is more famous among twenty-first century pilgrims for its entertaining and folkloric qualities, but the miracle of O Cebreiro gets right to the heart of the true motive which for a thousand years has moved millions of men and women to leave house and home to journey to Compostela.