Climbing a mountain has long been a symbol of arriving at the place where God will speak. One of many examples is the prophecy of Isaiah about how all peoples will see Jerusalem as the focal point of The Lord's dwelling. Further, they'll go up to this mountain to seek His ways and path:
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Even though we're starting in Pamplona, which bypasses the Pyrenees mountains separating France from Northern Spain, the first stage of our journey will indeed take us over a small mountain, the top of which is paradoxically titled Alto de Perdón or The Summit of Forgiveness. Imagine that! My Camino will begin with making an ascent. Have a look:
And looking farther ahead to the whole Camino, the elevation doesn't flatten out, especially towards the end:
Yikes! The only consolation is that if I keep the distance and height conversion to imperial units instead of meters, the numbers seem smaller!
Looking at the graph, I see what my own spiritual journey has been like my entire life. There are significant peaks after what seems like a long climb and there are tremendous valleys, some of my own making and some because there is a lesson contained there before the climb begins again. The Catechism suggests this continuous journey of the Christian:
The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes... (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2015)
It seems only fitting that the route that so many pilgrims have taken over the last millennium traces in a very physical manner the path of the soul to God. And with the first stamp on my credencial I join myself to that number. How beautiful it is that the Alto de Perdón occurs early in the journey, so that as I walk I can be reminded that the forgiveness that flows from Christ's wounds on the Cross are always available to the pilgrim who willingly comes to Him. I am immensely grateful for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is often received in the valley and becomes the passport and reorientation to the Mountain of the Lord.
St. Gregory of Nyssa sums it up nicely as he muses:
He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.
May I (and may you) keep climbing!