February 16, 2004

O Cebreiro

Climbing El Cebreiro is like ascending the mountain of the Lord, the place near heaven where divinity is revealed. The miracle took place centuries ago: the hidden nature of the sacramental symbol gave way to the tangibility of sight, the senses experienced what only faith had seen. That miracle continues to happen for the illumined eyes of faith: God becomes bread for pilgrims.

What better ritual to celebrate in El Cebreiro but the Eucharist itself, the symbolic banquet in which Christ becomes present and is eaten? It brings to mind the Paschal celebration of Israel (when God fed his people with manna) and the Paschal celebration of Christ (when Jesus offered himself as sustenance before leaving this world to go to His Father. It foretells the festive banquet that the Lord will give us for all eternity, in which we will be neither hungry nor thirsty because He will satisfy our longings. It carries with it the act of giving thanks (which means Eucharist) toward God the Father for the gift of His own Son, offered for us to satisfy our essential longing.

The Eucharist is also called viaticum, which is to say, bread for the road, food of pilgrims. Christ Jesus is your real sustenance, the only one in which our limitation reaches his plenitude. Today it is given to you in this banquet at El Cebreiro as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of the cross. Participate in the Eucharist, adore it: your pilgrimage not only to Santiago, but of your whole life, is possible thanks only to the divine force of this sacrament. Bread and wine become, by virtue of the words that Jesus said at the last supper and by the strength of the Spirit, His own body. Participate with a clean conscience in these mysteries. Only with these will you have the strength to culminate your existential pilgrimage.

When the Eucharist has ended, repeat these words with which St. Thomas Aquinas summed up human admiration toward such a divine gift.

Oh, sacred banquet in which Christ is our food is celebrated the memory of his passion, our souls fill with grace, and we are given the future glory!

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