Leaving Astorga was a pleasant walk on good path. It took me past a small Ermita, where I was able to have a bit of prayer time in a most humble setting. For that, I am most thankful. In fact, the entire day seemed to be quite personal, quite relaxing. The landscape has truly changed now. I was into the foothills of the mountains that will predominate the landscape for the next week. This may be my last day of a relaxing walk. Harder trails are ahead.
Town by town I worked my way. The weather was pleasant and I was most preoccupied with the gorgeous landscapes and the quant villages that I passed through that seemed to bear a considerable amount of Maragato influences; the ancient ethnic people who still populate this province. In good order I reached my destination of Rabanal del Camino by noontime and settled into a most agreeable Albergue.
Rabanal del Camino is one of the jewels of this entire journey. It’s a mountain village whose architecture is most rudimentary; stone structures with old-wood, post and beam construction within. The people are gentle, the food is good, and it is quite obvious that the Monastery is central to the whole village. The Order renovated the church and it shines like a peasant jewel; a pearl that the village can keep dear to their hearts.
So the real story for the day……
I sit down in the pew with the my Vesper’s program in hand, and reach into my waist pack for my reading glasses…. they aren’t there. Ok, Vesper’s is beginning. This is no time where I can get desperate, but where are my reading glasses? I dig through my waist pack, check my pockets. Did I hang them on the collar of my shirt; I do this frequently with both my reading glasses and sunglasses. No.
The Vesper’s service is incredibly serene and gently sacred. It is given each evening by the brothers from the Benedictine Monks of the Monastery of San Salvador del Monte Irago. I assume it is one of the seven prayer times that they perform each day/evening for their love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. There is an accompanying program, in the language of your choice, which permits you to follow their Latin service. The monks perform this service in chant, and it is beautiful; so human. Luckily, the type font on the program is large enough that I can read it.
At the end of service, while I wanted to go to the restaurant, El Refugio, which is across from the monastery church, I had a much bigger issue to deal with then my appetite. Without my reading glasses, the guide book is practically unreadable. My pintsize laptop, well let’s just say that certain functions show themselves in a font size of 4; tiny. I have to figure out what happened to my reading glasses.
My thoughts are as follows: I sat on my bed at the Albergue, getting ready to go to Vespers. I placed them first on my shirt lying on the bed, then moved them into my waist pack, zipped the waist pack shut, and left the Albergue. I headed up the street, and found, what I thought at first, was the church where Vespers would be held. It was so humbly stunning. I had to take some pictures. From my waist pack I withdrew my camera and began to shoot away.
It was still fifteen minutes before service. No one was there yet, so I ventured up the street to investigate and to pass the time. As I walked, a white-haired, Benedictine monk passed me and we exchanged greetings. He headed for the church, and I continued my path. A married, pilgrim couple passed me on their way to the church. I was content. After buying some peanuts and an apple at the local tienda (shop), I began my descent back to the church only to find that the door was shut and locked. Where is Vespers being held? Looking back up the street, I saw the pilgrim couple heading for another church, and so I followed. Indeed, I came upon the Monastery, its church, and a throng of pilgrims waiting to enter. So here I am, right back to where I began with this story….. where are my reading glasses?
I traced my steps back to my bed at the Albergue, thinking I had left the glasses on my shirt and they never got into my waist pack. No glasses. Now, in the past my loss would be exerting a lot of influence on my feelings, but my attitude suppressed what feelings were trying to break through, and I simply found contentment to going to dinner; what else can I do.
As I came to the Monastery and the nearby restaurant, there suddenly appeared the same white-haired Brother I had passed earlier and greeted. He was out of his robe, in work clothes, and carrying two watering cans out to the garden beyond the doors of the Monastery. My ordinary disposition – that being the prideful, American male who wouldn’t ask for directions out of a burning building – began to walk on. There was another in charge though, and this one turned to the passing Brother.
“Senor, habla ingles?”
Happily, I heard a rather good English return to me. I explained my predicament, and said that the only place I had not searched for my glasses were in the church where I was taking photos, using a camera I had drawn from my waist pack; the same place where I had stored my glasses.
He understood, said he would help, and he went to the Monastery to retrieve the keys for the church. When he returned, he simply placed them in my hands, and noted I should return them to the garden when I was done. Frankly, I was a little stunned. He trusted that I would unlock a church, enter, search about, and lock the doors after I am finished; returning the keys to the garden. Amazing, I thought, but right now I was on a mission.
I cannot express the quality of thought I had as I descended back down the street to the church. It was not so much an anxiety of whether the glasses were there or not. It was more like faith had walked in the door; the conclusion was irrelevant. The steadfast process was everything. I unlocked the large wooden door and swung it inwards; letting the light of day into the darkened church. My eyes cast themselves slowly across the open floor of the narthex where I had shot my photos. There, something glistened on the worn, stone floor. The metal frame and glass refracted the light like golden tears falling through brilliant sunlight. There laid my reading glasses. My immediate sense was gratitude. I looked up to the altar and in the same glistening light stood Mary with the baby Jesus affixed serenely within the façade.
So what’s the point of all of this? Who hasn’t lost something, only to recover it? And isn’t it always in the last place you look? Duh. What do I know? I know that God has brought me here to learn humility. Not a retiring humility that shuns assistance, but rather one that engages ones needs into the world. I needed help. God provided it. He even gave me the same Brother, coming and going. I sought it. For many, that sounds natural, but I lived a life, as I said earlier, where I wouldn’t ask directions out of a burning building. As I stood there in the narthex of this small church, I thought strongly that Mary was pleased that I was a seeker of what her Son had brought to this earth for all mankind.
Enjoy the photos.
Love and God Bless – Reese