Today we took another day trip, this time to nearby Sagovia. Sagovia is known for several things: a beautiful medieval castle that sits in the center of the city, an aqueduct that dates back to Roman days (and is the best preserved in Europe), and the tomb of St. John of the Cross. After a drive around the city, we made our way directly for St. John’s tomb.
St. John of the Cross is another Carmelite mystical saint from the 16th century. He was friends with St. Theresa of Avila, who we visited a few days prior, and was one of the great influences on the Catholic Reform during this time period. His most famous work was The Dark Night of the Soul, one of the books we have been reading on our pilgrimage. We made our way to the monastery where his tomb is and celebrated Mass there in the presence of his relics.
After Mass, we walked a short ways to another nearby Church, the Church of the Vera Cruz. This Church was built during the times of the Crusades by the Knights Templar. Msgr. Trapp explained to us that this Church was meant to model, somewhat, what the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem would have looked like at the time this was built (the current Church is more modern, having been rebuilt after a fire in the 18th century). He gave a great explanation about the layout of the tomb of Christ, how it is large enough for a priest, deacon and server to celebrate Mass in there, and how, at the “Behold, the Lamb of God”, the priest exits the tomb to present Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to the people, just as the risen Christ exited the tomb 2,000 years ago.
Msgr. Trapp’s explanation helped bring the experience of the Holy Sepulcher alive for us, giving us a small connection to the Holy Land. And what was even more touching was the fact that, this is what this church was built for to begin with. The Knights Templar built this church at a time when pilgrims would not have been able to travel safely to the Holy Land. They built these churches all over for people to make a pilgrimage to, and get some of the experience and connection to this most holy of sites. And now here we were, centuries later, also not able to visit the Holy Land out of concerns for safety, making a connection and understanding the experience in the same Church. It was an amazing, moving experience.
After this we boarded the bus and went into the city itself. It was quite crowded, as there was a festival going on in town that day, a puppetry festival. All throughout the town there were street performers set up with all kind of puppets, and there were kids and families all over enjoying them. Not quite what we expected, but it was fun to see some of it. We toured the town, saw the Cathedral, and had a nice lunch. After lunch we had to work our way back through the town to our meeting place at the Aqueduct, so we could hop on the bus and head back to Madrid.
We had a few free hours in the afternoon for a holy hour and relaxing. We met up for another Theological Reflection, this time reading and reflecting on the Eucharist and prayer.
This was our last night in Madrid, and tomorrow we depart for Montserrat.