There we were. Gathered around a long table, laden with food and wine, surrounded by a small sampling of the globe. Simple food was passed around, abundant and filling. Joy was passed down the row of people, the seasoning that was added to the top of each bowl of stew that was consumed. It was warm–or perhaps it was the wine and the intoxicating blend of languages and cultures, a beautiful spin on the Tower of Babel with English being a common reference point for many.
Some say this is what the Camino is–this is the ultimate Camino experience. The communal meals shared in random albergues around Spain to an eclectic gathering of people. We are from the US, Canada, Brazil, India, Germany, France, Spain, and beyond. We speak a smattering of languages but we are sharing our stories and bonding, even though this may be the only moment we are ever together. This part of the day was one of my favorites and the memories are poignant.
Despite the beauty of those moments, they simply made me feel like I was remembering something rather than experiencing it for the first time. Of course this was my first time walking the Camino and sharing in those lovely communal dining experiences. But I had shared a common meal with people of varying backgrounds and motivations. I had felt the warm embrace of belonging to a community. All of this was simply pointing to our membership in the Body of Christ. I belong to Him and, through Him, am united to so many others. Although we seem so different, we are very similar. We are all searching for truth and goodness and beauty. We all desire friendship and companionship and love. We are longing for fulfillment and something to transcend this fragile life on earth.
The communal meals along the Camino were the physical nourishment for the road that stretched in front of us, the difficult, beautiful road leading to Santiago. The Eucharist is the spiritual nourishment that prepares us for the road that stretched on, the road strewn with thistles and roses that meanders to the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. Both are shared with others and both point to something even more.
And the angel of the Lord came again a second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” And he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. -1 Kings 19:7-8