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Reform Magazine | July 13, 2024

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Jesus and... Incarnation - Reform Magazine

Jesus and… Incarnation

A series on what we have to learn from and about Jesus on a range of subjects. This month, Hannah Fytche on ‘the Word made flesh’

Near where I live there’s a perfect spot from which to watch for kingfishers. They live in holes in the wall next to an old bridge: from the bridge you might catch a glimpse of burnt orange and iridescent blue feathers, darting across shallow river water to willow trees on the other side. Sometimes you hear the kingfisher’s high-pitched call, and see droplets cascade from a sharp little beak as a kingfisher spears the water to scoop up tiny, tasty fish.

It’s a gift whenever I see one of these birds. Years ago, I learnt Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, ‘As kingfishers catch fire’, as I watched for them. It’s a gorgeous poem which takes inspiration from the kingfisher: as they fly, there are moments when they seem to ignite with light reflecting from their bright wings. Hopkins turns this into a dazzling symbol of how kingfishers, in their tiny kingfisher bodies, bear the mark of something beautiful – and something which seems to resonate with their very character of being a kingfisher. Similarly, dragonflies glitter with sharp light, and stones and bells resound with their very own heavy sounds as they collide with other objects. Each created thing is described in terms of something beautiful, and in terms of something resonant with itself. This beauty and resonance is a result of each created thing’s materiality – the stone sounds like a stone because of its stoniness; the kingfisher ignites because of its characteristic blue. They are themselves by virtue of what their bodies are like – by virtue of their embodiment….

Hannah Fytche is Associate Tutor in New Testament at Westminster College, Cambridge

Image: ©Hofheinz-Döring, Margret, 1910-. Holy Family, from Art in the Christian Tradition

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This is an extract from an article published in the December 2023/January 2024 edition of Reform

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