the visit

Dec 21, 2023


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

It took me a while to work out what was unique about a USA “visit.” It wasn’t simply that it wasn’t necessarily “in person”. 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 wanting to spend time or to even waste time together.

Most often our days are filled with business catch-ups, or networking over a quick coffee with the aim of building our earthly kingdoms. While these meetings might be useful, they rarely deal with the real stuff of life and friendship. It’s wasting time together that provides real friendship and food for the soul.

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 and we tend not to simply waste time together.

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.

Since many of you appreciated Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Annunciation yesterday I have used his Visitation work to illustrate today’s post. I saw an exhibition of his work a few years ago and was moved by many of his depictions of religious scenes including this one  named “Visitation”.

I love the way Tanner depicts the reaction of Elizabeth when Mary turns up at her door.


Can I ask a favour of FFF readers who have already received FFF – THE BOOK.  Send me a sentence or two on your first impressions, perhaps a favourite reflection etc. That way you readers can be my reviewers. I’ll collate your thoughts and use these (with your initials – (or anon if you prefer) to promote the book. Thank you for doing this. Send your thoughts to me by email

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  1. Just love the notion of wasting time together, or “ hanging out” as the young ones refer to it these days. I love hanging out with my husband as often our lives are very busy. We have good friends and I have noted over the years that it can take a few days of being together before deep sharing occurs.

  2. I think May and Elizabeth’s visit was about being secure from danger. Women are the ones who embody security for their families always present and available as a shoulder to cry on. I think of the many women and mothers in our world this Christmas facing inconsolable grief for themselves and their families. In fact I don’t like to think of it as it brakes your heart. May Christmas bring Peace and good will to all people this year.

  3. It made me think of when family or friends come to stay, so comfortable.
    It was a challenge to think how I visit with the Lord.


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