The Holy Year soon enters its final month. To mark the end of this last Holy Year until 2021, the next time the feast of St James, 25th July falls on a Sunday, the Confraternity of St James organised a Thanksgiving Service last Sunday. It was well attended including a senior representative of the Spanish Embassy in London who read a passage from scripture. Colin Jones, the Chairman of the CSJ led the service and the Confraternity choir sang anthems from the Codex Calixtinus and led the singing. The Hymn to the Apostle, better known as the “Botafumerio music”, was played and sung as those who attended re-enacted the scene in Santiago by sprinkling grains of incense on charcoal.
The service was to have also been attended by Don Jenaro the Canon in charge of Pilgrimages at the Cathedral in Santiago but ill health prevented him from being there. However he sent a special message:
Greetings to all members of the Confraternity of St James from Don Jenaro Cebrián, Canon Delegate of Pilgrimages, the Cathedral Church of Santiago de Compostela, given this day of 21 November in the year Our Lord 2010.
My dear members of the Confraternity,
I write to you from the Tomb of The Apostle on this day of great celebration. You have joined together to praise God and to celebrate the end of the Holy Year 2010. I am very sorry that I cannot be with you. In this pilgrimage of life we encounter many challenges. The present challenge I face with my health has prevented my physical presence with you … but please know that you are in my thoughts today and you will always be in my prayers.
You meet today on the Feast of Christ the King, Cristo El Rey. This is the end of the Church’s year. Advent follows, then Christmas with all of the joy that celebrations of the Incarnation of our Saviour brings. Today however is not the end of this special year in Santiago. The Holy Year continues until on the last day of the year when the Holy Door is closed again, this time for another 11 years until the year of 2021 when the Feast of Santiago again falls on a Sunday.
This has been a great year of celebration in Santiago. Over 260,000 pilgrims will have journeyed to the Tomb of the Saint by foot, by bicycle or on horseback. In September, we were delighted to welcome in Santiago members of your own group. In recent days we were humbled to receive the Holy Father himself when he made pilgrimage to Compostela. In addition to the walking pilgrims many millions have come by bus and train and aeroplane to pray in our Cathedral … to walk through the Holy Door and to hug St James. Whilst people have arrived by different means, all pilgrims are united in a common expression of hope and prayer for a better world. This is at the heart of pilgrimage. Pilgrims set off from all different places but walk the same road to the same holy place. It is the experience of that journey in which pilgrims come to know other pilgrims, come to discover Spain and come to encounter God.
Today I hope that you also give thanks, as do we in Compostela, for the magnificent work of the Confraternity of St James. Supporting pilgrims, providing information and resources and, of course, your two albergues at Rabanal and Miraz. These facilities for pilgrims have been provided through your own efforts to raise funds and a continuous stream of volunteer hospitaleros. The albergues on the routes and the hospitaleros who give a Christ-like welcome to weary pilgrims are the spine of the Camino.
And so, dear members of the Confraternity of St James, I want to address each one of you individually, particularly those who have returned from a pilgrimage this year. I want to invite you to look deep into your hearts on this auspicious day. For one moment I ask you to remember the gifts of pilgrimage … the hands of friendship you were offered, the bowls of food, the tears you shed, and the laughter too, the effort you put into your pilgrimage and the challenges you overcame. I ask you to remember those moments of intimacy when you were drawn close to a fellow pilgrim, drawn to the beauty of the countryside of Spain, drawn to the solitude of your own company. In each of these aspects you were drawn to God. Today, above all, I ask you to remember the joy of arriving at our Cathedral, kneeling at the tomb of the Saint, the pilgrims’ Mass, the Botafumeiro, and getting your Compostela.
I invite you now to remember the prayers you said in the depths of your heart and to make these same prayers again.
My dear friends … the Holy Year will end, but your pilgrimage will never end. Continue it. As you go forward in your lives celebrate Santiago, our Patron Saint, celebrate the Confraternity of St James and all of its good works … but, above all, praise our Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Go forward in your lives with your pilgrimages continuing every single day and when you falter just keep on walking.
In true pilgrimage fashion everyone attending obtained the sello of the church on their Commemorative Orders of Service before they left.
After the service 50 members attended lunch at La Terazza to raise funds for the extension to the albergue at Miraz - £500 was raised. Well done everyone.