From the archives …
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Yesterday, the third Sunday in Advent, I was sitting alone having breakfast. This this is the first holiday since my Dad’s death. He was a church musician who loved the Season of Advent. He would begin planning out both the choral and his organ music months in advance. And when choir rehearsal began the Thursday after Labor Day Christmas music was part of what we practiced. Dad felt that the liturgical preparing for Christmas day was a spiritual counter-rhythm to the commercialism of Christmas. So, I was thinking of him this Sunday morning as I was preparing to go sing with our church choir, and I started to feel sad.
And then, to paraphrase another holiday tradition, when out on the screened in porch there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. No, I did not see a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer. I did see two cardinals – a female and a male. They had flown through the open door and were bouncing around with so much wing flutter and squawking, it was impossible to ignore. Our four cats agreed.
The belief that cardinals are messengers from someone who has passed exists across cultures and beliefs. Did you know the word cardinal is derived from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge or axis? Like a hinge on a door, the cardinal is often considered the hinge on the doorway between our earthly world and the next.
If you spend any time studying about the life of a cardinal, you will discover cardinals mate for life, they are non-migratory birds, so they stay in their immediate area all year long, protecting their turf. When they have a family, they both care for their young.
I believe in the significance of seeing a cardinal. If you believe as I do, that the cardinal is a winged messenger, then the next time you see one who is insisting on getting your attention, ask yourself what or who were you thinking about at that moment. Maybe you were feeling down and lonely. Perhaps the day marked a special occasion, or maybe you needed to feel someone’s presence – as I was feeling this Sunday morning.
When I saw this cardinal couple, and instantly was reminded that this was the first Christmas that my mom and dad were having together over the years since Mom died. I smiled, and opened the door, carefully not to let the cats out. All the flapping and squawking stopped. The two of them perched next to each other as calm as could be. The three of us enjoyed the moments. But I knew I had to let them go. I reached first for the lady cardinal, and to my surprise, she let me gently pick her up. I took her to the porch door, and she flew out of my hands to land about 10 feet away on the deck railing. I turned back to bright red male who also let me pick him up. When I got to the door, and opened my hands, he cocked his head, looked at me, gave me a swift peck on my wrist, and flew to his mate. They both looked back at me, and then flew off high into the morning sky.
One of the first and most obvious qualities about the cardinal is the male’s brilliant cardinal red color. He has a powerful visual presence. For Christians, cardinal red is the color symbolic of the blood of Christ, who died to give us everlasting life. The highest priests in the Roman Catholic Church are called cardinals. Red is worn on the day of Pentecost. Red is symbolic of steadfast faith.
Have you ever listened to a cardinal call out? It is loud and clear and sounds like it is saying, “cheer, cheer.”
What a Christmas greeting I was given from the two that brought me into this world, that I miss so, but know that our love still is strong. Is it as comforting to you as it is to me believe that we are able to receive a visit or message from someone who wants us to know they are near? Open your heart and your soul’s eyes…they are closer than you think.