Advent Reflection by Maranu Gascoigne
Kaitiaki, St. Isaacs Retreat House.
Before you read on please pause a moment or two and notice your breath. Take time to really feel and notice the breath breathing within you. Go a step further and notice that you have no control over this breath, this ruach (breath) of God is breathing in you.
There will always be situations that choke, suffocate or diminish our Qi (chi) vital life force. Can you recall a moment when you have been winded and gasped the words, ‘I can’t breathe’.
Much has been written during the past year, whether its ‘I can’t breathe’ because someone has their foot on your neck or “I can’t breathe’ because of the debilitating disease know as Covid 19. Before either of these events people were saying, “I can’t breathe’ because of the air pollution. Closer to home our Tane Mahuta is crying out, ‘ I can’t breathe’.
Recently my path crossed this kingfisher perched low to the ground, going no where. I sat with the kingfisher for a long time. The next day I found the bird dead breathing had ceased. Lifeless, I picked up the feathered creature and laid it in a grave
A kingfisher, is said to be the first bird to fly from Noah’s ark, receiving the orange of the setting sun on its breast in ( Northern Hemisphere) and the blue of the sky on its back. It is considered to be the symbol of Christ.
Gerard Manley Hopkins treats us to a splendid Christological encounter in his poem
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame.
As Kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves – goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –
Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.Gerard Manley Hopkins
Hopkins invites us to pay attention to the optical images of kingfisher and the irridescent wings of dragonfly. He also encourages us to listen to the tinkling sound of pebbles tossed down wells, the plucking of strings on a musical instrument, and the ringing of bells as the ‘bow’ swings like a pendulum to strike the metal inside.
Christ, like the kingfisher who symbolizes him, is the only uniter of opposites, especially the opposites of mortality and immortality. Christ dwells everywhere – ‘lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes’.
We are forced to truly face our own mortality. In doing so we can draw on this profound truth, ‘our immortality in Christ’.
‘you give me a brief span of time; before you my days are nothing. People are but a breath:’
Psalm 39: 6
We share the earth, we share the breath. What unites us is that we are all God’s ruach. All feathers of the one bird’s breast.
Let our Advent call be for renewed breath in God. As Hopkins asks that we ‘keep grace’. Seeing each other through the eyes of God.
As you journey through Advent,
The spirit of Emmanuel – God with us.
Maranu Gascoigne is the Kaitiaki at St Isaac’s Retreat House, Opononi, Hokianga.
St. Isaac’s is primarily a place of prayer. Morning and Evening prayer are said daily in the chapel and you are welcome to join us. It is a place of quiet, because it is in silence that we believe we can most easily hear God speaking in the depth of us, and that is prayer. On the property you will find a number of places to pause and be found by God. There is a walk through the bush; and a walk through the pine trees beyond the Guest House with the Stations of the Cross. We look forward to having you stay with us.