Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A decisive day and choices

After Golinhac the number of wayside crosses increased considerably.Like Chapels, I used them as an opportunity to stop and pray.The final descent into Conques was quite precipitous. It reminded me of the paths in the mountains of Chalatenango. I was joined at this point by Carolina the Dutch girl that I had met two days previously. I commented to her that the entrance to the new museum at Copan in Honduras is shaped like the mouth of a serpent. For the Mayans this signifies entering a new reality. In many ways the arrival at Conques felt similar.
 The Abbey only comes into view when it is less than 50 metres away. I took Carolina to see the tympanum before we checked into the Abbey guesthouse. Despite the satisfaction of knowing that the first stage of the pilgrimage was now complete, when I got to my room I felt a real sense of heaviness and wondered why I was on the Chemin.  It was a thought I would come back to. The community had invited all of the guests to share Vespers and Compline. Carolina and I went to Vespers-the cantor had a stunning voice which filled the corners of this dramatic building. At supper we sat with Daniel and Tim (Dutch man). Compline was even more dramatic than Vespers and it concluded with the blessing of the Pilgrims. Each pilgrim was offered a copy of the Gospel of John to take with them. We were invited to sing  Ulreia as we processed to the carving of the Virgin for the singing of the Salve. The silence at the end was broken by the organ. Afterwards the leader of the community gave a long description of the tympanum and its significance. It was a special experience to stand in front of the tympanum as the light faded.Afterwards we were given the freedom of the Abbey as the organ was played.
I must also mention that the two men from Normandy were there and greeted me warmly. They were clearly embarrassed about what had happened. They said that there were two empty beds which could easily have been used for the other English couple . I was touched by their concern and understanding.

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