Last May and June, I walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) in northern Spain with my brother-in-law. We walked along the Camino Frances, to be technical about it. Yeah, that was a while ago, so why am I writing about it now? The Camino is like that. It is like a fine wine that mellows with age. It takes some time to process through you, and lately I’ve been thinking about the experience more and more. It becomes deeper with each passing day. As a bonus, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the mystical while walking the Camino. Here is the story of one of my encounters.
We started our journey in León, a major city where several of the Camino’s paths converge. The cathedral there is grand, a magnificent structure, built on the site of Roman baths. It is over 1000 years old. But this wasn’t the place where I was to have my experience. Beautiful and awe-inspiring as this cathedral is, there is another, more modest one in the city of León — the Cathedral of San Isidoro.
In this cathedral is a cup, one that is said to be the Holy Grail, the cup Christ used at the Last Supper. Granted, there are about 200 cups in Europe that are claimed to be the Grail. Some even feel that the Grail is not a literal cup at all (DaVinci Code, anyone?). Regardless, when in Rome, er, León . . . the thing to do is to go to San Isidoro and visit the cup.
Now, I won’t go into the provenance of this particular cup. It can be found here if you are interested. The innards of the cup (sans the gold and gems added later) are of simple origin and the right age. Definitely a must see item for me. The cup is in a museum adjoining the cathedral. In the museum are ancient manuscripts, some tombs, other medieval bric-a-brac, and the cup. This relic is in a room of its own, enclosed in a glass display case. “No photos!” we were told by museum personnel. There was even a guard of sorts in the Grail’s room. But, you know, that guard couldn’t stay in that room forever. I’m probably going to hell for this (add it to the list, I suppose), but I got a couple of pics while he was gone. The miracle, though, actually occurred when I first set foot in the room where the cup is housed.
How to explain it? As soon as I was in the presence of the cup, I was hit with a wall of Sacred. So strong was the power of the energy in the room that tears began to stream spontaneously down my cheeks. I was filled with a sense of ecstasy that lifted me out of the mundane and into the numinous. I was hooked, like a planet, orbiting the cup’s case, circling and circling. Other visitors came and went, but I stayed and stayed. I finally tore myself reluctantly away to look at the rest of the museum.
I think about this experience often. However, encountering the mystical can happen at any time, in any place. You don’t have to be in the presence of the Grail, or whatever that cup is, to feel the presence of the Divine. I had felt it before my Grail experience, and I have felt it since; but, wow, what mojo that cup in San Isidoro has!
Be sure to allow the presence of the Divine in your life, especially in the ordinary things. Your spirit will soar, and your existence will be forever enriched. (And, if you’re ever in León, make a beeline for San Isidoro. You won’t regret it.)