We joyfully marched the last 5 km of our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela this morning. Having anticipated a large crowd for the 12 noon Mass, our group took an early start to make sure that we would arrive at the Cathedral an hour before the Mass in order to have the front row seats.
While our group sat for an hour Praying and Meditating in the Cathedral, Fr. Scott and I went to the Sacristy to prepare for the Mass. I was asked to be one of the two main con-celebrants at the Mass, and coincidentally, I was also asked to come forward to help charge the Botafumeiro, the famous thurible (censer) for which the Cathedral Church of Santiago de Compostela is well known. I was very humbled and yet very happy to have been given the special privilege of not only con-celebrating at the Mass, but also to have the opportunity to help with the Botafumeiro.
The thurible (censer) is so big and heavy that it takes eight men to swing it, from one side of the church to its other side, almost touching the ceiling. Once it reaches its maximum velocity, the thurible travels at around 100 km/h. The Botafumeiro was used as early as the medieval period and especially on those days when the pilgrims travelling the great distance didn’t have the luxury of taking a shower and to be quite frank, usually stank. Thus, the Botafumeiro not only blessed the pilgrims, but also helped to deodorize and get the stench out of the Cathedral.
I believe that then, and now, it still gets rid of the stench, not the physical odour kind of stench, but the stench of sin and corruption.
Do you remember after Lazarus died, and having been buried in the tomb for four days, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out!? As Jesus asked people to remove the stone, the people warned Jesus that Lazarus had already been dead for four days and that the decomposition process had already begun. In other words, Lazarus is dead and the tomb stinks, so why bother?
People were discouraging Jesus and counselling Him not to do it. He insisted.
He can get rid of the stench; He can raise Lazarus from the dead and give him brand new life!
As the Botafumeiro swung from one end of the Cathedral to the other, I could not help but ponder that Jesus still has the power to remove the stench from our lives. The question is, will we keep putting on cologne or perfume to just cover up, to mask the stench, or will we let Jesus take away the stench of sin so that the fragrance of God’s Kingdom can spread?