Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A little late, but a brief thought on Mary, the Mother of God, celebrated on the 15th

A Homily for Holy Communion
on the Tuesday of Easter Week, 14th April, 2009, 9 a.m.
Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres

The Red and the Blue – Earth and Heaven in the Kingfisher
Gospel: John 20:11-18

Alleluia, Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed, Alleluia

Perhaps sometimes you take a health-giving walk along the towpath to Iffley Lock.  During Holy Week, I was walking there and had the magical experience of spying a kingfisher on a branch on the bank opposite.  Scarcely the size of a sparrow, despite the width of the river there, its colours are so dazzling, you couldn’t miss it.  I stood in wonder, maybe even a kind of worship, for several minutes, and then I did something a little out of character, because my walks are solitary and silent affairs, and that’s how I like them.  I stopped a passing jogger to share the view with him.  He might have shrugged me off as a nutter, but he didn’t.  We watched in shared wonder, until a few minutes later the bird flew off and disappeared.  “Thanks for stopping me and showing me that”, the jogger said, and jogged off.

The next morning, I had a bit of an epiphany.  The kingfisher is an icon of Mary.  Traditionally, Mary is portrayed wearing a blue cape, often over a red garment.  The red of the earth is swathed in the blue of heaven, just as mortal Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.  The kingfisher’s plumage is a rich russet underneath, and a shimmering blue on top.  A tiny, humble bird, it makes an impact on us out of all proportion to its size.  Mary, an innocent young girl from Nazareth, is remembered the world over because of her Yes to God.

Perhaps this is just a bird-watcher’s whimsy.  In Andrei Rublev’s famous icon of the Trinity, Jesus too is portrayed in red and blue.  In him earth and heaven are bound together by love.  We can only wonder at the attractiveness, the sheer beauty, that drew so many people to him with a devotion as passionate as Mary Magdalen’s.   

We cannot touch the kingfisher, nor can we touch Christ – save in the bread and the wine – but we can watch, and wonder, and for a moment, or for eternity, our lives are transfigured.  So, the Risen Christ touches us.  The Easter hope is that in time, when we must shed the russet plumage of the earth from which we were made, we will find ourselves not naked, but swathed in dazzling, celestial blue, and fly, with angels and archangels to be with our maker and lover, beyond time and space, and feathers.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed, Alleluia

Richard Haggis, Littlemore, April 2009


  1. Thank you. We celebrated it on Tuesday at mid-week, and had a brief sermon. Not as good as yours though.

  2. Flattery will get you everywhere! You just have to decide where you want to go.