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broadening and deepening prayer

Kathryn Price: waiting with company

Praying with those who wait Kathryn Price: waiting with company

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28 November 2022 at 19:25 Mark Argent
28 November 2022 at 19:24 Mark Argent

Good evening. You can see on screen that my name is Kathryn. I live in Flint, North Wales, overlooking the castle and the Dee estuary. I retired from full-time ministry last year and can now pick and choose what I do – for the most part! I am part of the group that planned this week’s retreat and this evening’s session, though it stands on its own, complement’s the session led by Ann this lunch-time. Then she looked at what is formally called ‘The Visitation’ – that episode when Mary went to visit her older cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant under mysterious circumstances. Ann focussed on Elizabeth, I will draw our attention to Mary. I’ve called the session ‘Waiting with company’.

This is what I plan to do – and I say this so you can relax and not be on edge wondering what comes next:

I will read again the passage from Luke’s first chapter, that Ann took as her starting point, though I will take us back to the beginning of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel and end a little sooner

Then I will take you through my reflections, based on a few questions –

What do I know – what makes little sense – what questions do I have – what has leapt out or surprised me?

We will explore creative responses to this part of the story – in art and poetry and song and then spend time in small groups reflecting together

Finally we will pray – beginning with a version of the Magnificat and ending with a night blessing.

So settle down and listen again to Luke chapter 1, beginning in verse 26 and continuing to verse 45. I’m using, as I often do, the Contemporary English Version. And you might like to jot down a word or an idea that jumps out at you as you listen.


So – first thoughts:

What is familiar to me here – after all I have been reading this passage in different translations for decades and have even translated it myself! And there it is – that pesky word ‘virgin’, but I’m not going down that rabbit-hole tonight. Though it did make me wonder if Mary’s ‘How can this happen?’ refer not to her getting pregnant, but to God honouring a poor girl who her village would look down on if she was pregnant and not married.

What makes little sense and what questions do I have – for me trying to explain the technicalities (I have grown up trying to explain miracles and avoid the supernatural): how old was Elizabeth actually and was it physically possible for her to conceive at her age; what actually was Gabriel saying to Mary? Was she already pregnant when he visited – the text suggests not. But she surely was ‘a short time later’ when she went to Elizabeth’s. And going back to my first question – we do know that Joseph wasn’t told until she definitely was pregnant.

What has leapt out at me – what a wise woman Elizabeth was, recognising God’s part in our lives, giving Mary comfort and confidence. And it struck me that in the Beatles ‘Let it be’ it is Mary that does this – When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom. There is this cascade of grace that goes from one to the other and then another.


Often I find it helpful to my own understanding to see how others have responded to the text. I looked up images of Mary and Elizabeth – and many came up of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots! – and I’ve chosen three. A piece of sculpture and that 3D concreteness grounds the story in reality. The painting of Elizabeth greeting Mary is just such a joyous image – and you can imagine Mary arriving footsore and weary, dusty and dry, having her spirits lifted by such a welcome. Finally an odd, to us though traditional, picture that reminds us of the unseen two at this meeting – John and Jesus.

Dan is going to show them as I read a poem – entitled The Visitation – by Malcolm Guite, which you can find on his blog and then sing one of John Bell’s songs for Christmas – My bonny boy


The Visitation – Malcolm Guite

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.

My Bonny Boy by John Bell (in Innkeepers & Light sleepers)


Questions for discussion – go back to your first impression, take that thought deeper with the others, who might you share this advent with, or comment on anything else you have heard this evening. I won’t ask for feedback, so if you wish you can declare your room a confidential space. But you have 10 minutes to reflect together.

Turning from each other to God, we hear Mary’s song of praise, which we call the Magnificat in a version from the Iona Community’s daily prayers:

Sing out my soul, sing of the holiness of God;

Who has delighted in a woman,

Lifted up the poor, satisfied the hungry,

Given voice to the silent, grounded the oppressor,

Blessed the full-bellied with emptiness,

And with the gift of tears those who have never wept;

Who has desired the darkness of the womb

And inhabited our flesh.

Sing of the longing of God. Sing out, my soul.

I invite you to unmute yourself, even if you do not wish to speak as a symbol of our connectedness in waiting together. And if you do wish to share your prayer this night, then welcome.


God of the watching ones,

The waiting ones,

The prayerful and positive ones,

The angels in heaven,

The child in the womb.