Back to the sun. It is a morning moment like this that I want to remember in midst of the challenging times in Bolivia. It is the same sun that warms all creatures everywhere around the world, each in its turn. It is the same sun whose energy is the source for all power here. It is the same sun that sustains all life on this planet. It lies so far away in unimaginably far skies, but it is close enough to touch us with life. Thanks be to God.
It is the same sun whose power and light, along with the earth in its fertility, has been revered by peoples of numerous religions. And so we honored the same sun and one earth this morning with a k’oa ritual. Profesora Sara led the ritual for us, walking us through the elements of the ritual. I have written about this Andean practice before, so I won’t break down all the details this time. Rather, let me say that, after spending almost the whole week indoors, it was good to feel the sun on my face and to stroke the soft grass under my feet. (The k’oa is a ritual burnt offering, so we gathered on a knoll in between the mission center and the Maryknoll priests’ house.) It was also an opportunity, in silent prayer, in this offertory, to ask God to grant me the blessing of renewed health and a safe journey back to the United States. In short order we built the mesa; on top of the kindling and a heavy paper sheet, some earth, then varieties of hard sugar confections to symbolize our desires and our prayers, some llama meat, and coca leaves. The fire was lit, and then we continued with the ch’alla. We poured cerveza and chicha at the four corners of the mesa. Profesora Sara reminded me not to turn my back on the sun when making your offering! That is real faith in the power of ritual, friends. Another custom is to take a drink from the chicha cup after you pour libations into the earth. Last time, five months ago, I abstained from drinking chicha, but this time I was looking for healing from all places, so I took a sip to be in communion with Pachamama and with one another.
I went to Mass one final time at the Maryknoll chapel after that. While taking my turn to drink from the communion cup, it felt like a continuation of the k’oa for me. Before the dismissal, the Korean priests, Antonio, Esteban, and Pablo, all laid hands in turn to send me God’s blessing for the journey and to give thanks for my presence here.
As I conclude this post, the sun is heating the front window of my bedroom. For the next hour it will give my room a good glow. The day has come full circle. The journey has almost come full circle.