Derby Diocesan Conference, Monday 17 November 2014 (Compline meditation), on this reading
We have a moment now to reflect on the day, and on the story of the road to Emmaus. Towards the end of this evening’s talk we were thinking about the importance of eating together. The story offers us that. And about the importance of silence. I don’t have silence for you, not entirely, but although what I have to offer you isn’t silence it is Spanish. It’s a Spanish proverb. When I am trying to be still I find it helps to have words that are pared down a bit, like poetry, or a proverb – and in fact this proverb is also a tiny poem. It is con pan y vino se anda el camino.
It means ‘with bread and wine the road goes on’, and that means ‘things never seem so bad after a good meal’, or ‘with bread and wine you can carry on’. Or we might say these days Eat Bread and Wine and Carry On, and then we would put it on a poster. Con pan y vino se anda el camino.
I didn’t learn this proverb in Spain. I came across it after I had come back from Spain. It was on a poster in the kitchen of a man whose wife was dying. We didn’t discuss it at the time. Afterwards I remembered it because I had been in Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago – camino just means road.
I learned then, along the way, that a meal in Spain, a proper meal, requires bread and wine. If you have bread and wine, you have something more than merely food. When you go to eat in a pub, in the most basic pub in the smallest village, they bring you bread and wine before you’ve ordered anything else at all. It means ceremony, however rough and ready; humanity; companionship, breaking bread together. Some people in this country take a similar view of gravy. If there is gravy, they say, then we say grace. I don’t think the Spanish have that view of gravy, or any view of gravy at all. But there must be bread and wine: con pan y vino se anda el camino.
I don’t think you need me to underline the ways that this connects to the story of the disciples on the Emmaus road. So I’m not going to. I looked it up, though, to check I was remembering it right, and I’m going to throw in a bonus Spanish proverb that I found on the same page, because at a clergy conference it would be wrong not to. So your bonus proverb is: con las curas y los gatos, pocos tratos. ‘There is no negotiating with cats or the clergy.’
You can’t negotiate with them. But you can sit still with them. I’m going to invite you to be still for another moment or so, with the story of the disciples on the road, and the disciples at the table with the one they met on the way, watching him break the bread. What they did next, where they went next. What you will do next, where you will go next, who you will meet on the way. The people you break bread with, and drink wine.
Con pan y vino se anda el camino. With bread and wine the road goes on.