February 16, 2004

Cross of Iron

Surely, you know that when you cross the mountains of Leon through the Maragateria area, a little above Rabanal del Camino you will find the Cross of Iron. The place, at the summit of the pass, maintains a very old ritual of throwing a rock on the mound from which the cross rises above. The ritual requires some preparation.

From the rocky area of the Esla River in Mansilla, pick up a stone that will not weigh down your backpack too much and that you can carry in your hand, feel, touch, and caress. From time to time, talk with your stone. Recite to it the poem by Leon Felipe:

“This is how my life is,
like you, like you,
little stone,
like you,
light stone;
like you,
pebble that rolls
over roads
over trails;
like you,
humble pebble of the highways,
like you who on stormy days
in the earth’s muck
and then
under the horseshoes
and under wheels;
like you who have not served as
a stone
for a porch,
nor a stone of a theater
nor a stone of a palace
nor a stone of a church;
like you,
adventurous stone;
like you,
who was maybe made
only for a slingshot,
little stone

Tell your troubles to your stone…and your joys. During these days fill it with yourself as you reach the Maragateria. At the touch of your hands and your spirit, it is no longer just a stone; it is filled with meaning and becomes a symbol in the shape of your own spirit, a humble pebble from the road, from the highway, a pebble that rolls through life…After leaving Rabanal take the stone in your hands and caress it. In Foncebadon let your soul draw inward because of the demolished houses, the church converted to a stable and manure pile, the bells that no longer ring, the fountain with no water, the loneliness of the ruins. It is as if Evil had taken over the Maragateria and of your own life. All the badness in yourself, the harmfulness of humanity, the wrongs of the world become symbolized in your stone. Slowly recover your calm as you look at el Teleno and the valleys you are leaving behind. Suddenly, you spy the tall Cruz de Ferro. Slowly draw near the mound and think of all the suffering of people, all the dark nights, all the anguish that has been brought together at this immense memorial that the cross lies atop. Every stone of it is a life placed at the feet of the crucified Lord. Say a prayer to the Lord that the cross represents: Lord Jesus, evil is not the one that has the last word because You are here, high above everything in this eternal Calvary of the world’s suffering. Evil is crucified on your cross, and because of that, saved and redeemed. Save me, little stone that rolls through the roads of life. Take my evil and raise me up and bring me closer to you elevated by the centuries.

Face the cross, kiss the stone, close your eyes, and throw it hard at the mound. Let it settle down into the mound and join the pains of the whole world that the cross represents.

When you have finished, you can sit down for a while at the shrine to Santiago and contemplate the mound and the cross.

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