Feast of St. Andrew
closes his eyes and for a moment thinks in a Spanish soldier the resultant
image would depict under a characteristic white flag with the cross of St.
Andrew, a dark-haired man with a long and twisted moustache, silver plate
armour and the typical helmet of the conquistador,
a long sword or and arquebus, killing Indians or burning protestant churches
(or in the English version, sunk in the English channel after the defeat of the
image speaks off ferociousness, stubborn loyalty, romantic heroism and so on.
However, among the tactics used by this singular Spanish unit was the so called
encamisada or camisade in English, a tactic that probably would make a strong
contrast with the popular idea. During the darkest hours of the night a reduced
group of no more than fifty soldiers without armour (only with a shirt, in
Spanish camisa from where the
tactic’s name is taken) and only with daggers or small swords enters in the
enemy fortress and performs any sort of sabotage. The human requisites for that kind of job, as
we can easily imagine, must be an antithetic mix of valor and cynism in due
proportion, honor towards their own army and treacherous contempt towards the
sleeping enemy. Moreover there is a special condition in the men of arms, they
must be in some way “brothers”, real trustworthy people whose competent work is
the only condition for victory. If only one of them behaved with negligence the
whole group would perish in a terrible trap.
In some way
it is the same attitude that servants of the Kingdom of God should manifest… mutatis mutandis. The Christian life is similar to the situation
of this group of soldiers that have rejected the use of any armour, surrounded
by the enemy and without any light. The calling of Christ to follow him is not
the sound of a trumpet calling to a glorious cavalry charge or the speech of a
flamboyant general before battle in an open field. Christ chooses the people
needed for the job among those who are able to pursue victory but not glory.
Christ chooses brothers: Andrew and Peter, the sons of Zebedee etc. People who trust
each other are what is needed to fulfil the Lord’s command. To be willing to
undertake this action is something that requires immediacy because the day is
coming soon; it needs detachment from comfort
calling us to a camisade. He enjoys
doing that. Isn’t he coming like a thief in the night? Isn’t it during the
night when the husband arrives? Then in this very first step of Advent let us
prepare our equipment leaving behind everything useless for the Kingdom, let us
follow Christ in the silence and the darkness of our contemplation and let us
be loyal towards our comrades that depend on our competence, on our loyalty to
the mission, to survive and come back safely to our heavenly land.