As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, here’s a poem written some years ago now that reflects on the moment of Mary’s encounter with the angel, and her solemn ‘yes’ to God.
Somewhere in the world there is village. And somewhere in the village there is a well. The well is deep and dark and friendly, and at the bottom of the well, there is water, cool and fresh. The water is so cool and so lovely that the villagers say that to taste a drop of water from the well is like tasting heaven. Every day, everyone from the village that's somewhere in the world thanks God for the well and for the water and for giving them a taste of heaven. At the well, there is a girl. The girl's name is Mary. Everyday she, like every other girl in the village, draws water from the well. Sometimes, the girls stop and talk to one another and the words flow as freely as the water. And at other times, like today, she is alone. She lowers a bucket into the darkness below. The bucket seems to drop for ever. There seems to be no end to the darkness. Then there is a splash. The noise echoes, jumping from the stones, leaping to the sun. She pulls the rope, once, twice, three times. The water sparkles in the daylight, splashing over her hands and feet, overflowing. It is cold and lovely to touch. Mary smiles. She carries the bucket to her home in the heart of the village. Her home is carved into the earth, burrowed into rock. It is cool inside. She loves to be alone inside the earth. She plays a game. She imagines she is the only person alive in the world, waiting for someone to come and save her from her loneliness. Mary pours the water into a large, stone jug. She loves the noise the water makes, like secret words, like whispers. She imagines it is a lost language, telling her tales, ancient stories from ancient people. She listens to the water speaking. It says her name. 'Mary.' She smiles. The water trickles out her name again. 'Mary.' Her name splashes into the jug. She wonders if others can hear the water as it splashes words into the world. She wonders if only she can hear the streaming secrets. She peers into the jug and waits for more whispers, more words, flowing, splashing. She imagines a world of flowing water, like a fountain, where children play and laugh and splash, and old people stop to talk and drink and soak their aching bones, and young lovers make promises that last for ever. She imagines angels cooling their wings and breathing over the water. And then she hears the water splash a word she has never heard before. She listens again. She waits. There is silence. The word is like a promise, like the oldest word in the world. Like the first word that ever was. The last word that shall ever be. She tries to speak the word but it is like water, running away from her, too wet, too flowing, too quick, too deep. She wonders what it means. and if there is a wise man or woman in the village or the world who can tell her what it means. She listens again. The water tells her tales of long ago, of old things and new things, the beginning and the end, of unbroken promises of promises fulfilled. She feels the breath or the breeze of an angel's wings, as cool as water. Mary shivers. The angel has a message. Mary closes her eyes. She imagines the angel is beautiful, that his face is lovely to touch and lovely to see. She imagines there is so much light, so much brightness, that his eyes are like deep pools of water. His voice is like a stream, like a river, like ripples of love. The message is clear, like water. The angel breathes again. His wings cover her. He tells her she is loved. Heaven, for a while, holds its breath. There is no movement. No ripples. All is still. She feels a weight, like water. The water is still. And silent. There are no more words. She is alone. She plays a game. She imagines she is the only person alive in the world, waiting for someone to come and save her from her loneliness. She feels life growing inside her, like water welling up, like a deep well, speaking words that only she can hear. She listens. She can hear the word speaking inside her, like a well, an echo, jumping from stones, leaping to the sun. She feels God is close. Closer than he has ever been to anyone before. Like water, like life, welling up inside her. No longer does she imagine she is the only person in the world. There is no loneliness, no waiting. Her Saviour has come.