16. The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth

by Nicholas Mynheer

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Commentary by the artist

Nicholas Mynheer writes:

For me this is an image of Pure Joy.

Every time I read the story of the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary in the gospel of St Luke my heart leaps for joy much as the baby John the Baptist leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. But not only does John respond to the near presence of the Christ-child – the trees lean in to embrace the women, the building bows to the Christ-child and the swallows (symbols of the Incarnation of Christ and of his resurrection) swoop joyously overhead.

Vicar’s reflections

Andrew Bunch writes:

To make this transition from a person twisted in character by the pains they have endured into the full humanity that God wants us to inhabit often feels totally beyond our capabilities. When we think this is the case, we are probably right. For it is only when we acknowledge that we cannot make the transition by ourselves, that we reach out to others for their help and insights and provide an opportunity for them to let the love of God flow through them. This process is depicted in two works showing the experience of Mary visiting Elizabeth prior to the birth of Jesus. (Luke 1:39-56)

In the painting “The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth” by Nick Mynheer we catch a glimpse of the tender beauty of this sensitive and significant encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. Both women are facing a major transition in their lives with the birth of the child they are carrying. For Elizabeth it is the end of a life of shame in the community, for she will no longer be a childless woman. For Mary, it could be the life of shame in the community as she gives birth as an unmarried mother. Both women recognise that the birth of their child is both a gift from God and an honour bestowed on them. The views of society sometimes cannot engage with the bigger picture of greatest significance. But those who share their stories of life, both their dreams and fears, can help sustain each other through the slights offered them by an unloving society.