As the late spring slides into early summer, and the new Church year begins, the colour purple dotting the landscape of Sydney is a natural reminder of Advent. The coincidence of Advent’s liturgical colour with the late-spring flowering Jacaranda trees and agapanthus plants embodies a rare consonance between the Church’s liturgical season and the local Australian landscape. Both the liturgical season and the purple flowering plants are imports (Advent came across with the early Christian convicts and settlers, while the Jacaranda came from South America and the agapanthus from South Africa), and yet, somehow, all flourish in the local environment, bringing joy and natural beauty to our gardens and our liturgical lives. The gradual purpling of the previously-bare Jacaranda branches prepares us for the greening of the young leaves to follow once the trumpet-flowers lie in a purple carpet at the foot of the tree. Such natural signs can serve as a visual reminder of new life breaking into creation, inviting us to permit God’s presence to break into our consciousness anew.
For many in temperate-Australia, the blossoming of the Advent-purple trees means that Christmas is not far off. Rather than rugging-up against the increasing cold and watching the light fade as the year proceeds toward the northern winter solstice, many in the south have to remind ourselves to protect our winter-skin against the increasing intensity of the sunlight as we head toward the longest day of the year and daylight-savings tempts us to stay out of doors later and later. In temperate-Australia, Christmas is celebrated amidst the revelation of the light in its fullness; its celebration heralds the inauguration of a long-awaited summer break at the end of the academic and calendar year. In the race to year’s end, taking the time to stop and enjoy the natural beauty of a creation blooming with life can provide a moment of joy as we hurtle headlong toward Christmas, and the promise thereafter of a season of relief, refreshment, relaxation and renewal.