We have now spent about three weeks in Spain and Portugal and I have come to the conclusion that many people on the Iberian peninsula are deeply religious. It is a religion steeped in history and tradition. You can see glimpses of the gospel but on the whole it is overlaid with stories and myths and age old patterns.
The story of St James in Santiago is connected with Mary the mother of Jesus bringing a marble pillar to build a church Zaragoza, in order to encourage James. Icons and relics are treasured in many churches. The worship of Mary dominates. One wonders at the psychology of that.
And yet, there are glimpses of the heart of the gospel:
* “God is honoured in this place” was written over the front door of a convent
* John 3:16 emblazoned in a Cathedral
* many of the windows and frescoes relate Bible stories
But a question remains: what is at the heart of the faith of the people that attend these churches? Is it a Romans 1:16 faith or is it laden with works and deeds and right behaviours to gain salvation?
In nearly every church we enter I spend some time praying that the gospel may be heard clearly.
Imagine Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Seville, the streets are packed with parades of people singing, dressed up, standing room only. Out from the churches proceed a float being carried by dozens of men carefully marching in step below and a part of the story goes with it … every day for seven days. Religion is big in Spain in a way that feels absent from the states. Sure Christians can get worked up about plain red cups, but there’s no pilgrim routes, no holiday for the three wise men, and just an altogether different approach to faith.