“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28, NRSV
The cross you see in the picture is called the ‘Cruz de Ferro’ (‘Iron Cross’), which stands along the famous pilgrim route of the ‘Camino the Santiago’ (Saint James Way) in northern Spain.
For many centuries, countless pilgrims have made this strenuous journey, which ends in Santiago de Compostela (‘Saint James of the Field of Stars’), the site where St. James, the disciple and brother of John, allegedly is buried. The most traditional pilgrim route from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela is about 550 miles long and takes several weeks to complete on foot. Thousands of modern pilgrims still travel the distance every year to this day in order to find God and/or themselves.
The ‘Cruz de Ferro’ along this pilgrim path has a very particular meaning. As you can see in the picture, there is a huge pile of pebbles and rocks at its base. Pilgrims throughout the ages have brought along a small rock, or a pebble, from their hometown, and laid it at the base of the cross. Symbolically, all emotional burdens would be dropped at the foot of the cross, and at the feet of Jesus, together with the rock. This ritual has been described by various pilgrims as a very conscious act of just letting go.
As we are now beginning this year’s Lenten journey in the shadow of the cross, I hope we remember that our pilgrimage through this season is not about gloom and doom, but about life in Christ and in the shadow of the cross. One of the important things we do as Christians is to surrender, to let go – and to lay our burdens down at the feet of Jesus. Only if we surrender all that is our live, the good and the bad, to Christ, can we live life to the fullest.
We are many thousand miles away from the ‘Cruz de Ferro’ and the enormous pile of burdens at its foot – however, I’d like to invite you to imitate this ritual in the place where you are right now in your pilgrimage through life. Pick up a pebble or a rock in the place you live or work, hold it in your hand and think about what burdens you are bearing right now. Think about Jesus’ invitation to lay it all upon him and to find respite and peace. And then put the rock down. Just let go. If you don’t have a cross in your home, you are invited to bring your rock to St. Matthew’s and lay it down at the foot of the cross on the altar. Or you may designate a special sacred space in your home or workplace, where you put down your burden.
May your journey be blessed. And may you find rest in God.
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