the visit

I’ve noticed that North Americans use the term “visit” in a very broad sense. Whereas in NZ we might plan to visit someone (in person), Americans will also speak of “visiting” with a friend on the phone or by Skype.

It took me a while to work out what was unique about a USA “visit.” It wasn’t simply that it wasn’t necessarily face to face. It seemed to have more to do with the fact that there was usually no agenda and it was pretty informal. An invitation to “visit with” someone seems to be much closer to “I just want to spend time or to even waste time together”

This is the kind of visiting that comes to mind when I think of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth in today’s gospel passage. She didn’t just pop in for a quick catch-up but as the scripture makes a point of telling us she stayed for three months.

I imagine the two of them having a great time, especially since Zechariah was unable to speak after his encounter with the angel!

When we visit with someone for an hour or two we don’t usually get to the stage of wasting time together. We know the catch-up will be brief so we don’t waste time.

But when we spend longer together simply for the sake of being together the visit doesn’t have to be all talk and we can relax. There can be silence with time to sit together perhaps each with a book, talking every now and then, then a break for a walk or food then more chat and more silence. This is a real visit and in this relaxed restful environment friendship blossoms. The ultimate is when the visit includes a night or two or three.

The “Visitation” of Mary to Elizabeth was the sign that these two women were good friends and together they had found safe company away from the chatter of those who could not see the presence of God in their unexpected pregnancies.

I have chosen another Henry Ossawa Tanner painting for today’s reflection: It is named “Visitation” and I love the way Tanner depicts the reaction of Elizabeth when Mary turns up at her door.


An Invitation

  • Take time to visit with a friend in the next few hours, maybe in person, or at least a phone chat for no reason apart from to savour the friendship and waste time together.
  • Take time today to visit with Jesus, setting aside 10 or 20 minutes in the midst of your pre-Christmas busyness to know his presence with you and his love for you.


O Antiphon: 21 December

“ O Rising Sun,
you are the splendour of eternal light
and the sun of justice.
O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death.”

10 Responses to "the visit"
  1. These women remind me of the way we “visit” God in church and regular prayer, and how those visits become an indwelling, God in us. It’s the way faith works. We accept God’s invitations to visit, and God responds in kind.

  2. Coming from Southland the word “visit” was a verb. We used to go “visiting”. As our lives get busier the chance visits become less and I miss them. Here in Christchurch people arrange their visits. Bring on the spontaneous pop ins I say. The painting is a wonderful depiction of this special event. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. When our children were small, Sunday after church was a day when we either visited or had visitors, particularly family. What a blessed time it was and brings back some wonderful memories. Thank you Father John for the reflection today. Such a timely reminder.

  4. Thank you Fr. John. I love it when people pop in to visit me. Yet I am hesitant to pop in on others for fear of being an intruder. This has given me food for thought.

  5. such a delightful painting, no words necessary, and a BIG thank you for introducing me to this amazing artist. I visited you on a Wednesday evening during Advent, and these visits were an inspiration as well

  6. Receiving surprise visits were many, and varied at our place in the country. Among them were people known as Tramps, on migration; north for winter, south for summer, so there was a regular seasonal cycle for being called upon. We got to see each one twice a year. Eight to ten men, one at a time and one woman.
    For me as a child, these visits were like gold because I watched my mother provide a good meal and cups of tea. And to go on with their journey she provided another meal, tea and milk and bread – (they carried a billy). Occasionally a shirt was needed, or a referral to the cobbler whom she paid when next in town.
    These were respectful, calm, and holy times.

    • What a good mother you had John. I remember my mother telling me a similar story about her mother. The tramps used to make a mark on the footpath so that other tramps knew where to stop, in order to get a meal and some kindness from a goo person.

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