The Ends of the Earth

We find ourselves now in the season of Lent – a journey towards Easter. I am thinking about journeys and pilgrims. The pilgrim walk in NW Spain – The Camino de Santiago de Compostela (also known as the Way of St. James) is not quite on my “bucket list” but it’s close! It might edge up and grab a place on my must dos! However, not yet! There are many routes to choose from, but of course all converge on the city of Santiago de Compostela. My preference might be the Camino Norte as it hugs the northern coast of Spain crossing the Basque Country. Some who complete the Camino at Santiago de Compostela feel compelled to go beyond, to go to Finisterre – the most western part of the coastline, once there you can walk no further! The word Finisterre is Latin meaning The Ends of the World. The writer, philosopher, and poet, David Whyte has written a poem entitled Finisterre. He comments that this poem was written for his niece who had just completed The Camino. It reflects the tradition of once arriving at Finisterre the pilgrim would burn something , often a letter that accompanied them on the journey, and leave behind an item of clothing, often worn out shoes or boots, before moving on. Ponder David’s words carefully, slowly, and imagine yourself walking, then arriving at the wild edge of the Atlantic. Then what? On this walk through Lent how might you travel? What ways will you seek to commune with God? Then what?

The road in the end taking the path the sun
had taken, into the western sea, and the moon
rising behind you, as you stood where ground
turned to ocean: no way to your future now
except the way your shadow could take, walking
before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t
let you pass, except to call an end to the way
you had come, to take out each frayed letter
you had brought and light their illumined corners;
and to read them as they drifted on the late
western light: to empty your bags; to sort this
and to leave that; to promise what you needed to
promise all along, and to abandon the shoes
that had brought you here right at the water’s edge,
not because you had given up but because now,
you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would
still walk on, no matter how, over the waves. (from David Whtye: Essentials pub 2020)

O Creator and loving God,
you call each of us to walk, to follow.
In Christ you walked amongst us and
at times that walk took you to beautiful
mountain heights and across waters deep.
With anguish we recall your Via Dolorosa –
the Way of Sorrow.
Help us to follow and to walk,
to venture onward, outward, into the
possibilities of today and tomorrow, despite
uncertainty, fear and danger.
Help us during this season of Lent to walk lightly, gently,
casting off the clutter of too much stuff.
“To sort this, and to leave that”
In silence, we offer you our prayer.
In song, we sing your praise.
In service, we seek to do your will. Amen.

One thought on “The Ends of the Earth

  1. I like the poem, I listened to it read by Whyte, and I like the flow of the words which suit the notion of a journey with purpose, but one yet to be completed, as is Lent. While we might assume that the Lenten journey comes to an end at Easter, perhaps it is the beginning as we consider who we are, or should become as you say in the prayer considering the possibilities of today and tomorrow. Although having nothing to do with Lent in a literal sense, I’m reminded of Hemingway’s very short story, A Day’s Wait. I have always loved the story and its meaningful simplicity. A 9 year old boy is sick with a fever of 102. When he learns of his temperature he assumes he is nearing death since he was told by a schoolmate in France that one cannot survive a temperature of 44. Of course the boy did not know that thermometers could measure Fahrenheit or centigrade. And so he spends the day waiting to die, and in doing so, refuses to let anyone come into his room for fear of making them sick as well, truly a selfless act for a child on a frightening journey. In the end, although he is fine, during the next day “he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance.” He arrived at the ocean’s edge so to speak, full of both relief and fear. But yes, that ocean always lies ahead and as Whyte suggests, we somehow find a way to tread forward. One would hope that the Lenten journey allows each of us to be somehow less selfish and more willing to step into those waves for the greater good. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, particularly after your introduction to Whyte through the interview podcast.


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