I have spent the last week thinking about an Easter devotional. What on earth (or heaven, for that matter) can be said that has not already been said, and by those holier and more intelligent than I, just a mom? I keep coming back to the fact that I am not all that excited about Easter. There isn’t the anticipation for Easter that there is for Christmas. I am not sure why, because I think Easter is supposed to be the pinnacle feast. And yet, in my life it is not a pinnacle. It is a day where I have to get many children up early and out the door for mass, and somehow have Easter baskets waiting for them when we get home, too. The games we play to bring a smile to a child’s eyes also leave me bleary-eyed because I was up late the night before, putting the baskets together, plus prepping all the foods for Easter Sunday’s feast.
I have been daydreaming a lot. I keep thinking about a year ago when I walked into the Santiago church in Spain. I flew from rural America where I spent two weeks walking 175 miles with a backpack on, alone, to do penance, to receive confession, to leave my burdens at the foot of a cross along the way and finally, to enter this holy Church, one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in the world.
The day I saw the spires in the distance was emotional. But you know what? The church, even though beautiful and full of all the Catholic folklore and traditions I so adore, was anti -climactic. I asked someone where I could find confession in English, and was shooed away by a grumpy security guard. The Cathedral, after all, is also just another local Catholic parish. I did finally find a priest with a minimalunderstanding of English, and between the two of us, using first grade English and Spanish, we managed. Then I sat through a mass in Spanish where I only understood the Latin responses, and some lady next to me was with a group of old biddies who had paid to see the Botafumiero swing. And they were full of themselves. The people in the pews, after all, are just regular Catholics.
The lesson I learned that day is that it is more about the walk than about the arrival. And that is what I am thinking about, as I look for the spires of Easter in the distance. Lent is a pilgrimage to Easter. On the Camino, we greet everyone on the path with, “Buen Camino!” and “Ultreia!”
Buen Camino…”Have a good walk.”
Ultreia (loosely translated)…. “Beyond.”
This is the funny thing about pilgrimages, whether a symbolic one like lent, or a physical one. You have a plan. You know why you are walking. You plan what you are giving up, what alms you will offer in Jesus’ name, and how many times you are planning to go to stations. And it never ends up being about what you planned. Lent presents itself to us with moments we never could have anticipated, and changes us forever.
And it was about the silence in the walk. The sound of my feet hitting gravel, snow, ice, grass, and pavement. The sound of the wind in the trees. Somehow, God is in all of it. He is so present that even the agnostic peregrinos comment on it. No one is an atheist on the Camino, even if it is just the recognition of a kind of magic they cannot explain. I’ve been a Christian of one sort or another since 1989, and I cannot explain it, either. We are not so different from each other.
I went all the way to Spain to discover in the walking that it was about loving God, and about loving my neighbor as myself. Truly, God is so much more merciful than we imagine. Penance was not on His mind anywhere near as much as it was on my mind.
The pilgrimage from Lent to Easter is just a long walk. It is not about your starting point, the number of sacrifices you will make, or how much you believe you need to do penance. And in the end, it is not about the arrival of Easter, either. It is about the journey, the greatest commandment, loving God with all your heart and soul and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself. And the realization that the pilgrimage doesn’t end with Easter.
It continues on, until we find ourselves kneeling before our Maker, marveling at the gift of a Mercy that we inherently know we do not deserve. At the same time, somehow we know that we are deserving, because we are made in the Image of God. This alone makes us worthy in His eyes, and gives us the right to call him Father. And we are reminded that our neighbor also has the same right and worthiness, in spite of our unbridgeable differences.
He is Risen. Buen Camino to you. Ultreia.
Eve Maria Alexandra is the wife of one and the mother of seven. She writes among the cornfields and is in recovery from the tyranny of denim jumpers. She is a vinyl record addict and recently returned from a pilgrimage overseas. She is also sometimes known on the inter webs as Bitch Pilgrim.