Thursday, 9 March 2017

Light as a feather



When you walk, as opposed to drive, you have greater freedom to meander.

I have been struck by how living on foot rather than behind a wheel, there are more paths open to me to follow. When I drive, I can't responsibly meander all over the road. I have to stay in lane. But on foot I travel light. I can weave along a pavement or cross the road and stride a different path. And away from the concrete world, I can wander off the path altogether. I can walk to the edge of a precipice and lean into powerful winds. I can live on the edge. 

A poet I know has written about 'Edge Folk'. People who know things and travel strange paths under strange skies, with what he calls 'bent bones and bent minds, and souls open to the stars'; people who lean into the wind and live on the edge of falling.

In our ordered lives of getting from A to B in the most efficient and quickest way, we do not leave much space for wandering, getting lost or living on the edge of falling.

We have a more rigid heaviness, less space for wild wanderings, perhaps not terribly open to the Holy Spirit's murmerings.

Our minds and bodies become occupied by getting to the next thing, ticking off the next task, filling the day with achievements which somehow make us feel better about ourselves in our earnestness (well this is my experience anyway).

But walking between appointments and tasks is teaching me to create space for alternative possibilities. It is giving me a sense of lightness.

There is is an interesting play on words here for us that exists with the use of the word 'light' (in English at least). 

As Christians we are taught to understand that we are carriers of Christ's light. 

Jesus also teaches us in Matthew that his 'burden is light'. 

I wonder whether there was such a similar coming together of contrasting meanings from the same word uttered in Aramaic, Jesus' language two thousand years ago?

Walking in Lent is teaching me not to take myself too seriously. And this brings lightness. So does the daily conversation with a blackbird I hear (and see) each morning. It makes me almost light as a feather.


  1. I started Thursday morning weeping. I am overwhelmed by my commitments to work and family. I am far away from feeling as light as a feather. With friends or acquaintances who are seriously ill, and work that gets ever busier, it is easy to forget to look around and notice what is good. My daughter pointed out to the garden, and said,
    " Look! How can you be sad on a day like this? "
    The sun shone brightly, the signs of spring all around. This is the best part of the year. It holds the promise of summer, of flowers and sunshine, of warmth and love.
    I picked myself up, and after the morning chores, made my way to my 93 year old friend's place. She is house bound, but unfailingly cheerful, except yesterday. Her beloved sister of 90 years had passed away. She spoke of her love for her, her love for her husband who passed away 30 years ago. We shared lunch and carrot cake that I had made her, remembering the many times she had made me cake and minced pies.
    In ministering to her need for companionship, I forgot my own burdens. I was reminded of what St Paul said,
    " Our Lord Jesus said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
    I had given, but I had received too- friendship, love and fellowship in our meal.
    And as Galatians 6: 2 reminds us:
    Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

  2. "A feather on the breath of God".

    This is how the Medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen described herself.

    "Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commended it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I a feather on the breath of God".

    Hildegard was born in 1098 in Bemersheim in now Germany. When she was 8 years old she was put into the care of an abbess of a small community of nuns attached to a Benedictine monastery. There her life began as a visionary, naturalist, playwright, poetess and composer. You can listen to some of her music at:

    Being " a feather on the breath of God" is when we are blown lightly by the Holy Spirit, when the very breath of God bears us, with our burdens, and sets us free from all that oppresses us. The breath of God is tender and gentle, yet powerful and uncontrollable. blowing where it wills. A feather does not fall or move in the wind in straight lines but weaves in and out in, as if making beautiful patterns. If I were an artist, today I would love to draw or paint a picture of a feather. Perhaps another reader may do this. Instead, as I walk today I shall look out for feathers and use them as an aid to pray "Come Holy Spirit".

    Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a feather on the breath of God when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived her son, and her life and the life of the world was transformed for ever. The following words are from a song of Mary that the music group at St. Hilda's have sung and I offer it to you as a prayer for today, that we, too, may be feathers on the breath of God.

    Breath of heaven, hold me together.
    Be forever near me, breath of heaven.
    Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness.
    Pour over me your holiness, for you are holy,
    breath of heaven.

    Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)   words & music by Amy Grant and Chris Eaton