On the last Sunday before I left for Europe, I got all weepy at communion because I suddenly realized that traveling in heavily Catholic Spain meant that I probably wouldn´t be having communion for more than 2 months.
There is a saying among pilgrims that El Camino gives you what you need, not what you want. What I wanted, I suppose, was a Protestant church to pop up along The Way about every 7 days or so, serving the Lord´s Supper just like home.
Instead I got what I needed, a very different sort of communion. I realized this yesterday morning, as I sat in the little cafe in Azofra, eating my meager Spanish breakfast of bread and butter and jelly. Just as I finished, the daily supply of pan chocolate (they call it Napoleonti here) was delivered. Now I consider pan chocolate one of the great culinary inventions. But I had just finished eating, wasn´t really hungry, and couldn´t quite justify splurging on this delicious treat.
As I was sitting at the counter, another pilgrim came in. His name was Bent, from Denmark. Apparently I was visibly salivating over the pan chocolate, because he said, ¨Would you like to share one?¨ That sounded perfect, and as Bent cut the pastry in two and handed me half, I thought, ¨Communion!¨ We had broken bread (delicious flaky chocolate bread) together in a moment of shared community and humanity.
And suddenly I could identify all kinds of moments of communion. Sitting the night before with 3 other women pilgrims as we shared a bottle of wine and our calling to walk alone on El Camino for a while. We toasted one another as strong, independent women--and it was communion.
Sitting around an albergue kitchen, a Korean, a Dane, a German, and two Americans, pooling our dinner resources and reaching across language divisions to share something of our story--and it was communion.
A pilgrim meal in a restaurant, where we started as six strangers. An Italian, a Basque (NOT Spanish she emphatically told us), a Finn, 2 Germans and an American. Except for the Finnish woman Kristina, who spoke several languages, we could barely communicate. The silences were long and awkward, and yet as the meal progressed and the wine was poured, we agreed that the best thing about El Camino was the opportunity to drink wine and break bread together--and it was communion.
There have been so many moments of communion. Communion with the community of pilgrims, ever shifting, extraordinarily diverse, yet sharing so much in common. After all, the root of communion and community is the same. Communion with the nature--a walking pace means you are very in tune with the world around you. Communion with God--so much time for prayer and meditation as I walk along, one of the greatest blessings of walking alone.
So while it may indeed be weeks before I once again have the joy of sharing in a formal way in the Lord´s Supper, I have experiences of communion every day. I am reminded that one of the ancient names for communion is Eucharist, which means thanksgiving. I give thanks. I give thanks.