Quick stop in Zaragoza on our way to our final destination: Barcelona

Lately some of us have been reflecting on the role of Mary in the Christian faith. As the choir sings in Spanish churches we've been noticing the statues and paintings depicting Mary. We've been noticing how she's often dressed in blue. We've been reflecting on our own piety and the place that we offer to Mary. We've had some conversations about whether the virgin birth actually happened. 

Yesterday we left Madrid for Barcelona (about 7 hours by bus). On the way we stopped in Zaragoza, where the choir sang at the end of a mass in the Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. This church is reputed to be one of the first churches dedicated to Mary. According to ancient local tradition, Saint James was preaching the gospel in Spain shortly after the resurrection of Jesus. He was disheartened by his lack of success. As he prayed by the banks of the River Ebro, Mary appeared to him and instructed him to build a church to her honour there.  

We got to the Cathedral-Basilica for the 1 pm mass. As the choir stood ready to sing at the back of the chapel where the mass was said, the priest invited the choir to come up to the front, where they stood facing Mary before the altar. Before the choir sang, the priest told the congregation that the choir was not going to perform, but rather was going to offer a prayer in song to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that as it was a prayer, no applause was necessary. Afterwards, Scott reflected that it was quite a special moment, to be positioned so that the choir was singing a prayer to Mary. 

As we've been having these experiences, it's made me think back to a wonderful little book written by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The book is titled "Ponder these things" and in it he reflects on three Marian icons. In the Introduction, he says the following:

"[Mary] is the person who stands on the frontier between promise and fulfillment, between earth and heaven, between the two Testaments. That she can be represented in so many ways, thought about and imagined in so many forms, is an indication of how deeply she speaks to us about the hope for the world's transfiguration through Jesus; how she stands for the making strange of what is familiar and the homeliness of what is strange. After all, it is she who literally makes a home for the Creator of all things, the strangest reality we can conceive, in her own body and in her own house, she whom we meet again and again in the Gospels struggling with the strangeness of her son, from the finding in the Temple to the station at the cross." (p. xvi). 

We got to Barcelona in the evening, tired but many choristers were excited that there was a pool. They dashed off to change and went to enjoy the swimming pool on the 8th floor of hotel. A lovely way to end the day! 

Rev. Areeta