Purple rain

I have fond memories of growing up and attending St Brigid’s Primary School at Raymond Terrace. At the end of every school year, we would attend swimming lessons. I remember the songs we sang on the bus as we pulled up at the purple-coated roadway of Jacaranda Avenue at the local pool. It was this time of the year we had all been waiting for.

The visual elements of the jacaranda trees were a sign we were entering a time that was not like ordinary time. There was a fragrance in the air that smelt fresh, new, and made us feel excited as we waited in anticipation for a time when we could step out of the ordinary and explore the world outside the classroom.

The jacaranda tree, like many other flowering and fruiting trees, spends all year preparing to burst into life at this time of the year. There is a patience needed in the waiting as we watch deciduous trees reform their beauty each year. There is a rhythm and a mystery to the waiting as we contemplate with wonder and awe at God’s creations.

Advent is a time when we are called into waiting. As a mother prepares to give birth, she is called to a time to nest and prepare for transformation. As Christians we are also called to wait in anticipation of hope, peace, joy, and love for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.

For many, the word “waiting” brings frustration as we are often caught up in the busyness of the season. How long do you have to wait in line to be served, on the phone to be connected, or for that parcel to be delivered?

During the Advent season, we can discover a purpose to our waiting if we leave room to reveal the mystery of the season through a contemplative lens.

Beloved Irish priest, author and speaker, the late Fr Daniel O’Leary wrote: “Contemplation is not a technique to be mastered but a journey inside ourselves to become one with what already is.”

In recent years, I have come to discover an ancient prayer, reflection, and formational experience called mystagogical reflection. While it is contemplative it also allows me to dive deeper into the mystery of the trinitarian relationships we experience with self, others, and our world.

This type of reflection invites us into a personal encounter with Christ. While this can be with the gospel or liturgy, it can also relate directly to a lived experience. Mystagogical reflection invites us to pay attention to what Christ reveals to us in encounter and to explore what it reveals to us in our life now and how this transforms us.

When I see jacaranda trees now, I am still taken back to my childhood but can also view them through a lens that reveals the mystery of this time of waiting.

The jacaranda tree blossoms as we enter the season of Advent, the colour of the flowers reminds us of God’s abundant love for all. The purple carpet or robe of the jacaranda flowers as they fall to the ground remind us of our call to be priest, prophet, and king as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus’s vision and mission.

Jacarandas bear fruit that is protected by a woody outer shell. When the shell births the seeds and they are nourished by rich soil, the seed transforms into new life. The annual cycle of the of the jacaranda bursting to life requires waiting, as does the time we are called to be attentive and reflective during Advent.

IMAGE: Lyla from St Brigid's Primary School, Raymond Terrace amongst the jacarandas. Photo: Peter Stoop

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