Daily Worship

Motes in the air

James Cathcart December 09, 2023 4 4
Image credit: Unsplash
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Luke 1: 26-38 (NRSVA)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

You can picture Mary illuminated by the angel’s light catching a glimpse of a microscopic world as motes of dust and fragments of fibre are suspended in the air. Time slowing down around her.

This beautiful poem Annunciation by Katy Emslie-Smith beautifully sets the scene:


She may have turned her head

To where the shadows changed round an absence,

A gap in the curtain blown just wider,

A shift in the falling evening air,

Denser now, with the scent of bergamot

As if crushed in a footprint.

A change in the light perhaps,

Inexplicable, as an eclipse of the sun

In an overshadowing might scintillate its rays,

Just for a moment,

Before setting in its dusky course.


She may have seen a feather fall,

Her heart stilled, comforted

As words formed

In the silent spiral downwards,

Soft down for her soul

“Do not be afraid”.

The light may have failed earlier that day,

A strange dusk,

Come in a way that she couldn’t quite remember.


A lonely intimacy this,

With intimations of power and greatness,

Prophesied and pondered, reverenced

In the long stretch of her people’s faith,

Come near to her –

Spoken from a face with teeth, tongue

Lips, breath, skin?


Or a simple knowing of her heart.

“Let it be” she said

As the flow of blood in her pelvis turned its course

To give her life now to this new life.

Her boy, her son,

Named in this darkening hour,





Holy One,

When we look around at the last straws

that threaten to break

open our eyes wider

to the motes of dust

the fabric of fibre

the fragments of faith

knitting around us in the light

as heaven speaks to us.

The footprints of bergamot

you’d have us follow.