A Sonnet for the Annunciation

We miss the shimmer of the angels' wings

We come now to the feast of the annunciation, that blessed moment of awareness, assent and transformation in which eternity touches time. In my own small take on this mystery I have thought about vision, what we allow ourselves to be aware of, and also about freedom, the way all things turn on our discernment and freedom.

As always I am indebted to Margot Krebs Neale for the accompanying images, and she has kindly offered the following note for the images that accompany this sonnet:

‘As I was making suggesting a picture for another sonnet, Malcolm said he was working on the Annunciation sonnet. A little cheeky I sent a picture of a beautifully blurred lily wondering if it might help. Malcolm liked it and could see angel wings in it, I thought we needed a face. A young woman of sixteen. One of the many 16 years old I know and love or…myself. I remembered and found this picture of me taken when I was 16 or 17. Why me? Because of the “We” of the first strophe, I read it like an “I” : We see so little, only surfaces, and yet we have a choice.

« Quel fruit lumineux portons-nous dans l’ombre de la chair? » What luminous fruit do we carry in the shade of our flesh?

« un fruit éternel enfant de la chair et de l’Esprit ». An eternal fruit, child of the flesh and the Spirit »

May we be granted the joy of giving it to the light.’

As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ buton or on the title.


We see so little, stayed on surfaces,

We calculate the outsides of all things,

Preoccupied with our own purposes

We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,

They coruscate around us in their joy

A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,

They guard the good we purpose to destroy,

A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.

But on this day a young girl stopped to see

With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;

The promise of His glory yet to be,

As time stood still for her to make a choice;

Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,

The Word himself was waiting on her word.

but on thi day a young girl stopped to see


Filed under imagination, literature, Theology and Arts

19 responses to “A Sonnet for the Annunciation

  1. Mary Mueller

    Thanks for another beautiful and reflective sonnet, Malcolm.
    Just having re-read Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, I am reminded of his eldila: They were barely visible, and entirely missed if one was too preoccupied with the business at hand. They were more likely to be seen when one looked slightly away from where they seemed to be. Many of the most important realities of life are like that: when we strain to attain, the vision is lost; when we are quiet and receptive, it comes to us. Let the one who has eyes to see, look!

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Mary, I know that passage well and the only time i have come close to ‘seeing’ angels it was very much as Lewis describes it.

  2. Your poems: always a place in my meditations when they present themselves.

  3. Patricia Youngdale

    And in The Lord of the Rings, the Ring is destroyed by Incarnation, isn’t it?

  4. Cheryl

    Beautiful….Gabriel knelt …and not a feather stirred…implies a patience we cannot grasp….does God have that much patience with us…with our faults our failings…can he truly wait for our full surrender to Him….while we decide Is this love real…. He is calling me to surrender my life fully to Him…Oh how I love Mary and her response…overcoming fear….overcoming trust….she gives her life to God

  5. Sally Phalan

    Dear Malcolm, I’ve been out of circulation for a while and much to catch up with – you move along with breathtaking speed – from your still centre! I really love this latest sonnet – full of music and light! What happened between the spoken and written versions though? Line Six in the spoken version dances and the images recall Blake – “A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfold” – much more dynamic than “Eyes wide open, living wings unfurled” so I hope you retain the former.,

    • malcolmguite

      Ah. Well spotted Sally. I must have posted up from an earlier version. ‘A swirl of wheels and eyes was definitely the final version, evoking Ezekiel and Blake. I’ll change that! Thanks for pointing it out

  6. Pingback: “The promise of his Glory yet to be” | Strands of Life

  7. Hello Malcolm, I’ve used this beautiful sonnet to caption my photograph of Pippa Blackall’s ‘Our Lady of the Annunciation’ at St Peter’s church, Ely, Cambridgeshire. I’ve credited it and included a link back to this page, I hope that’s OK. You can see the page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/norfolkodyssey/36597646106/




  10. Pingback: The Annunciation – with backward mutters of dissevering power

  11. Jo Richards

    Dear Malcolm
    I am heading to the Holy Land after Easter and would like to use your poem in the Church of the Basilica Nazareth in a small acr of worship, may I use with your permission

  12. Pingback: God Is With Her | Aimee Byrd

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