Easter and transformation
The bush seemed alive with motion which proved to be caterpillars with an all-consuming hunger. And I imagined the future for just one caterpillar who, on reaching a state of fullness, became an animal pregnant with change. Eating ceases and she spins her chrysalis. When her temporary abode is complete she seals herself off from the world, just as we have been sealed off from so much of our worlds. What happens next is awe inspiring as she secretes digestive juices, and then liquifies.
All that remains are little packets of cells: imaginal discs.
They were there while she was a caterpillar, the physical re-imagining of what she would become, but when she enters the chrysalis she undergoes a kind of death and all that is left are her imaginings of what she will be. To break into the chrysalis would destroy her chances of ‘becoming’. She must go through the transition time and it takes as long as it takes; there are no shortcuts.
From these semi-liquid remains she rebuilds herself, now becoming a butterfly. Yet still her metamorphosis is incomplete. When she is ready to crack open the chrysalis she must struggle to escape it. The struggle itself is vital for this is what pumps blood into her wings. Should you feel sorry for her and try to help her escape without struggle, then she will never fly. You will condemn her to an early earthbound death, never able to take to the air for which she is intended.
One thing which is certain is that she can never go back.
She can never return to being a caterpillar. That part of her existence is done with and over. It served its purpose in setting her up for the struggle to become what she now is.
Whilst I write from a Christian perspective, this is not a resurrection metaphor. Instead it’s a metaphor for change, for transition. All true spiritual seekers inevitably experience some kind of ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ on our journey, and for many that was initiated by coronavirus isolation. When we go through it, it can feel as if we are liquifying and the process is painful. But it cannot be hurried. The process can break us down into the imaginings of what was always present but which needed time to be allowed to take form. That which we were, may even be the fuel used by the re-imaginings to make what we may yet be.
But it takes time and it cannot be hurried. Love, care and attention is what is needed. And patience. Maybe a lot of patience. None of us know what will emerge on the other side of this crisis. Friends and family members may struggle to understand that which we become.
Our struggle with them, with ourselves, and maybe with the Spirit Herself is what pushes blood into our newly-formed wings. Yet without that struggle we will never become a creature of the air, a creature of the Spirit, a creature able to be blown on the breath of the Spirit. And we must never feel abandoned in that struggle.
The Spirit Herself stands watching, knowing that even She cannot help pull us from our chrysalis because we must be flight-ready and that requires the pins and needles pain of blood being pumped into wings which have never opened. So She stands attentively, encouragingly, lovingly.
She waits. The crisis begins to pass; we begin to emerge from our homes.
And slowly, as wings open, the Spirit draws an in-breath…
Paul Cudby is an Anglican Priest and the author of The Shaken Path
Peacock butterfly: Ian MacLellan
Meadow Brown Chrysalis: c/o Lightwood Natural History group member (find us on facebook)
Butterfly waking: Ruth Evans, The Hedgerow Gallery
Butterfly: G MacLellan
with many thanks to Paul for this lovely piece for
reflection and contemplation
and to our artists for their continuing support