Friday, 31 May 2013

"Two women on the very edge of things"

Who are the "two women on the very edge of things"? They could be almost any two - most women in the world are on the edge, powerless or unnoticed. But my title is from Malcolm Guite's sonnet 'The Visitation' published in his collection 'Sounding the Seasons'. The two women in that sonnet are Mary the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist.

31 May is a day to celebrate the visit that the young pregnant Mary made to her much older and more pregnant cousin Elizabeth. You can read the story in Luke 1: 39-56. I love the sculpture shown in my photograph taken in the courtyard of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem in Israel. Sometimes art conveys more than words can.

This is not just an old story of long ago. The miraculous pregnancies of Mary and Elizabeth may be unique but so much of their experience is a universal story. It is repeated many times the world over when old and young women without power support and help each other and recognize the potential for joy yet to be.

This event and the songs the women sang carry so many deep layers of meaning, connections to the ordinary and unnoticed as well as to eternal and scriptural themes. I love the way that 'The Visitation' sonnet alludes to so many of these. You can read Malcolm Guite's sonnet in Hidden Joys; A Sonnet for the Visitation and I quote it in full below:

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. 

Image Credit: my photo taken in 2010 at Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem


4 comments:

  1. What a lovely poem/sonnet. I've never heard it before but it is so very apt.
    I love the image too.

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    1. I don't think I've read a single poem by Malcolm Guite that I have not liked. I love the discipline of the sonnet form and the way he uses it to express profound theological ideas. His collected sonnets 'Sounding the Seasons' takes you through all the festivals of the Christian year - a rich source for meditation.

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  2. Thanks so much for this, Nancy. A lovely meshing of words and image in honour of one of my favourite Biblical passages.

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