For those that hike in the mountains, when you reach the end of their your fatigue after the ascent to the summit, you take a photo alongside a cross. A photo that bears witness to the undertaking carried out. It is not always the case, but in most peaks one finds a cross. There are those who dispute its presence, there are those who do not notice it at all, and those who use it as a backdrop for a selfie.
I often asked myself about the meaning of this symbol at the summit. Sometimes I think about the hard work of the people that laboured to bring up the materials and erect it there.
In all cultures, and so too in the Bible, the mountain has always been the meeting place between man and God, or with the deities. It is the point where the earth has, in some way, made a great effort to reach the sky (and in some cases they continue to do so). Our ancestors have placed that symbol as a sign of the effort Heaven has made to touch the heart of the world.
Furthermore, the summit is a unique place. Sometimes, it is just a physical point with just enough space for the feet. The summit dominates everything and seems as though it is cut off from the rest of humanity. You have a different perspective, you breathe a different kind of air and see a different kind of sky. You live a different time: on the one hand you breathe immortality, and on the other danger and insecurity. You would like to stop there forever, but the afternoon clouds or the return journey makes us hurry.
Everything freezes and you feel suspended.
“In the mountains I don’t only bring along the best part of me – said Renato Casarotto – but all of myself”. Wherever we go we also carry our thoughts and concerns, and too often, we bring weights that slow down our pace.
Even in the Way of Santiago, at its highest point, one finds an iron cross hoisted on a pole. There one can leave the weight of one’s sins. There, as at the end of any fatigue, the backpack is laid down. One leaves the useless weights, the heaviness of the plain, and all these chains are offloaded at a place where someone else can receive them. We free ourselves under the sign of the One who took our burdens upon himself, and we taste a hint of heavenly life. Perhaps, we should also remember to take this hint downhill too.