Day 10: Schwarzwald or Black Forest
The band “Celtic Women”, with their wonderfully haunting Celtic sound and Irish lyrics, in the song called “The Voice” mid way through the song that keeps building they sing; “I am the voice of the past that will always be, filled with my sorrow and blood in my fields, I am the voice of the future, bring your peace, bring me your peace and my wounds, they will heal. I am the voice in the wind and pouring rain, I am the voice in your hunger and pain, I am the voice that will always be calling you! I am the voice!” Those were the words that were going through my minds as I see and savored the views of the Schwarzwald or Black Forest.
Forests have and will always be a wonderfully mysterious place, what is locked deep within, but a voice calling us forward as we want to shrink back. It is the place where people believed and believe that spirits are locked and yet unlocked in the inner most parts of its depth. What depth, can we find when we seek out that voice that chimes that beats, what is it telling us it is so wonderful and yet so terrifying. Overdramatic, yes indeed! Does it or has it lost meaning? No! For centuries the forest the was the place that gave refuge for the marginalized and it was there that people who were oppressed went and would occasionally find a friend, an ally, a priest who would come to seek out the lost. (Think Robin Hood!)
So when I finally made it to Heidelberg you get off the train thinking and dreaming of finding some kind of kind of adventure in this place that sits deep in the Neckar Valley a city enchanted by the forest that reach up to the skies on both sides it’s Schloss or Castle that perches and keeps watch of business, revelry and that is when we know that we can see and know beauty.
Now, something happens when we see beauty, something happens within us that make us change both physically and mentally. Physically, I should let a doctor tell you, yet we get a little bit flush, blood rushes, our heart rate moves at a little bit faster pace, we can even feel a little bit queasy. For those married, single and looking, a priest, those who encounter some other love such as art it is all the same. We all have and an emotional longing…for the other. Whether that is your husband, wife, you’re other, God. The embrace is what you long for, it yearns, it hurts, and IT draws us near. We look into its eyes, we are scared, yet ready to do something rash and seemingly irrational, yet it seems to make all the more sense as we gaze deeper and deeper. That gaze, it turns us upside down! What we know and think is no longer, what made sense before has no more pull upon us, we have tasted something out of this world, may it last we think! We then are encountered with a moment, do we act? Or do we pull back? That crossroad is the story of life.
Do we dare to say yes, or no? We either, walk on egg shells and hold it in our hands that we will never see the chicken hatch; or we are so reckless that we hold it so tight that it breaks into a million pieces and it does not happen.
So how can or could, we ever know the difference? On one hand we can’t know, the mystery is too deep, yet gazing into the eyes of the other we are drawn and that is the aim of culture, law, teaching, religion, custom and rules of engagement. Draw us into the dark trees, dusty and winding paths keep my hands on the horse, drive forward, yet give yourself over to the other, that will guide us through the enchanted forest.
Day 10: Heidelberg
So when I got going in the morning I went to the Bahnhof and decided where I might want to go.
Eventually because it was the next few minutes I decided on Heidelberg. Just experiencing the train ride is worth the trip to Europe, now don’t get me wrong but seeing people in their own environment is something to watch and savor. Why is it good to meet strangers? Because we can tell them more than we would ever normally tell in certain ways to those we know in certain ways and yet we will not see them again this side of heaven. Much of what you learn and remember travelling is done later when you are sitting and something comes to you and you are transported for that spot again even if for one moment. So when we travel we must take time to reflect.
Recently I saw a part of a movie or a preview, it was an animated film, the scene showed a very stereotypical American Family traveling in their t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes in Egypt.
What I remember was that they stumbled out of their bus and just started shooting picture after picture of the pyramids, now I am just as guilty of this as the next person, yet when we do this we can really miss what is right there in front of us. How it must have been for those who travelled before cameras and recorders. When they came back the only pictures they had were in their minds and on their lips, sitting around a fire explaining to those who wondered and stretching their imagination of the glories of God and men. That is how I would love to describe Heidelberg! For me the best was the click and clack of the shoes, the countless languages that were converging into a constant chorus, walking seemingly aimlessly yet with a sure purpose. While there you can certainly feel an American presence, both with the tourists and with the military.
It seems that for German and American alike, the feeling is mutual. The American service men and women I talked to love serving in this place, some to the extent saying that they might stay after they retire from the service. Also the Germans feel a comfort and like of the military green that has been there for some years now, even if now it seems to be from a central economic standpoint. The university and scenery also gives way to knowing you are in a city that has a pulse beyond its natural and historical beauty. You know why many flock there even if for a few moments it seems very kitsch. When I got back I went by the bus to “Holy Trinity” Chapel. I concelebrated with the local pastor, who is pastor of five churches. He asked if I may want to stay and give him a hand, how tempting it is, though he has a number of other priests that help him out with masses.
It was a beautiful small chapel; he had me read the Gospel, with only a few fumbling of the words the gospel was stated. On this evening afterward they have adoration and benediction followed by night prayer. I stayed with him and the people in this country know how to chant. Afterwards, he was kind and drove me home and we talked about his work in Mexico. He was, as others have, been that I already have a parish of my own. This diocese is a smaller one and has its own pastoral challenges, he wishes I could come and help out especially with the Pilipino people who long for services in English and other pastoral concerns. Not real hungry I just had a small Döner and went for a night cap. I will savor this place as I know much of which I love from here is that of a stirring of my inner self than just listing off things I did. It might not seem the same way for others but I for one was enchanted by its deep and thick enchanting forest.