Christ comes with a January flower

Nothing like a Kavanagh poem to set the Leaving Certificate flashbacks in motion.


We have tested and tasted too much, lover-...
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower. 

(Patrick Kavanagh).

Artist: Sr. Marie Paul O' Brien, pddm
Kavanagh draws an analogy between the season of Advent and the nativity which follows and his own wish to rediscover the innocence and wonder of a child's mind. The theme has much in common with Vaughen's "Retreate", in which the poet seeks to return to prenatal existence. We are born blinded by the darkness of sin, but when our faith is transformed by Jesus, light invades the darkness.
What does it means to live into the expectation of the incarnation?
Advent is more than just a coming; it is the breaking in of the divine into the everyday patterns of this world. We are not the ones creating hope, but neither are we the ones simply awaiting a future hope. Advent reminds us that hope in the form of Jesus has already broken into our world. To live in expectation of that hope is to live into it – to embody the alternate reality Jesus made possible though the sacrifice of the Cross.

The longing for Christ is deeply rooted in the innermost part of the human soul and we yearn for it, whether we dare to admit it or not. All through our lives we seek the strong union which we felt in the womb of our mother, the most intimate of relationships. Here I share with you a beautiful chalk sketching from one of our sisters, Sr. Marie Paul, pddm. She explains: "It's Mary pondering what her Child would look like. I tried hard to turn the face of Jesus toward the face of Mary thinking what his Mother looks like but I was totally unable to turn his head to look up.  So I gave up trying. The best I could do,to get closer to my idea from meditation was for him to embrace the heart beating with love for Him." It is a beautiful image which reflects what the Advent journey is for me, a time to slow down and listen to the beating heart of Christ!