Hidden Joys; A Sonnet for the Visitation

The feast of the Visitation, on the 31st of May, celebrates the lovely moment in Luke’s Gospel (1:41-56) when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also against all expectations bearing a child, the child who would be John the Baptist. Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit came upon them, that the babe in Elizabeth’s womb ‘leaped for joy’ when he heard Mary’s voice, and it is even as the older woman blesses the younger, that Mary gives voice to the Magnificat, the most beautiful and revolutionary hymn in the world. There is much for the modern world to ponder in this tale of God’s blessing and prophecy on and from the margins, and i have tried to tease a little of it out in this sonnet. I am grateful again to Margot Krebs Neale for her inspiring image, and , as always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title.

This sonnet is drawn from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press here in England. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies are shortly to be available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great..

The Visitation

Here is a meeting made of hidden joys

Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place

From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise

And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.

Two women on the very edge of things

Unnoticed and unknown to men of power

But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings

And in their lives the buds of blessing flower.

And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young’,

Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime’

They sing today for all the great unsung

Women who turned eternity to time

Favoured of heaven, outcast on the earth

Prophets who bring the best in us to birth.


Filed under christianity, literature, Poems

6 responses to “Hidden Joys; A Sonnet for the Visitation

  1. Hello Malcolm,
    It happens that the verses
    “They sing today for all the great unsung
    Women who turned eternity to time”
    I illustrated those few years back with a photo of my mother on the left and my niece on the right, as the chain that turns eternity to time that I belong to.
    A year ago today, it was mother’s day in France and I was sitting by my mother who lay unconscious and approaching death. I was silently asking her “not today, please” as I thought every mother’s day from then on would be such a sad anniversary. She died the next day 1st June.
    Today on the anniversary of what seemed a brave and solitary approach to death, here I find her portrait and a reminder that life, death and eternity were at the heart of her experience as a young nurse in the war and then as a mother. Life, death and eternity.
    Her name is Elisabeth.

    • malcolmguite

      Thank you Margot. That picture is so powerful and all the more so for the story you have shared. I hope my post was not too painful to see so suddenly in this day but rather that in some way this stirring of memory might also be for good and for healing

  2. Carole Lewis

    This sonnet thrills me to the core and the picture speaks volumes.Yes, babes in the womb do respond…my favourite line is “the quickening kick of grace”.
    I preached on the visitation last year and read and gave out copies of your sonnet to the congregation. I hope some of them now have copies of your books as I have.
    I was very much hoping to come to your recent prayer day in Westminster but was confined to the house following a fall from which I am now recovering.
    Blessings and many thanks.

  3. Pingback: The Very Edge of Things - Presbyterian Record - Presbyterian Record

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