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No. 64 (September 1968)
– 41 –

The Carving

The matapihi, always placed to the right of the entrance, is a very important part of a meeting-house, as it is the only means whereby light can enter.

This carving is therefore symbolic of the coming of the light of the Christian Gospel into the centre of Maori life.

The Lintel or korupe is always the widest part of the matapihi, and here speaks of the wideness of God's love and mercy, the greatness of His salvation and His overshadowing in the affairs of man.

Carved upon the lintel is the whole story of the Bible. The four double spirals indicate the divisions of history—the creation of heaven and earth, the birth and life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church, and the new heaven and the new earth, when old things shall pass away and man shall dwell with God forever.

The two fish, representing the Old and New Testaments, have both ancient Christian and Maori significance. The five Greek letters forming the word ‘fish’ were the initial letters of five words meaning ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’ and the fish is the earliest Christian symbol. The Maori fish, the sign of Tangaroa and of Marakihau, always has its tail turned under, but in these two fish the tail came uppermost during the carving. This surprised the carver, until he realised that the Maori fish with the Pakeha tail symbolised the true mingling of Maori and Pakeha in the work of the Maori Bible.

The three heads in the centre of the lintel represent the Tri-une God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Side-Posts, or poutaha represent the translation of the Old and New Testaments and also show how the Maori evolved from a one-tongued man into a bi-lingual, bicultural man through the coming of the Pakeha man with a mission from God.

The top figure on each post is cloventongued, a man of two languages, the missionary, who brought the Gospel of peace to a warring people. From these two figures the symbol of birth and continuity shows the new life which came with the Gospel.

The second figure, a one-tongued man, represents the Maori ancestors before the coming of Christianity.

The third figure, still one-tongued, represents the chiefs of the Waikato and Ngapuhi tribes, who taught the missionaries the Maori language, and assisted with translation.

The fourth figure, cloven-tongued, represents the Maori of today, with his bi-lingual, bi-cultural heritage.

On the Sill, or paepae rests the whole structure of the matapihi, and here appears the manaia, the ‘bird-like’ form representative of most of the tribes of New Zealand.

This symbol shows Maoridom embracing Christianity, and how the structure rests on the Maori church of today.

Once more the double spiral symbols of creation and life are used. Jesus said, ‘I am come that they may have life and that they might have it more abundantly.’