Editor’s Note: On this second day of our Advent blog series “Hidden Joys,” Associate Director Meghan Meros shares how a reunion with a long-distance friend in Scotland inspired new reflections about Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting in the Visitation.

Through the drizzle of a wet night in Glasgow, Scotland, a familiar face emerged from a hotel on an unfamiliar street. “Meghan!” the face squealed.

“Maria!” I squealed back, right before being caught up in a big hug.

As Maria bent over and I reached up, I was struck by how tall Maria was. How could I forget this about my friend? Friends remember these things, right? And then it hit me. My friendship with Maria had been strengthened more by conversations over WhatsApp than by conversations in person.

When Maria, a native of London, and I met two years before at a retreat in Taize, France, we spent just a few days in the same space before an ocean and a pandemic separated us.  No wonder I didn’t remember how tall Maria was in comparison to me! Our friendship had been forged across the miles, not across a table at a café or through adventures in person.

As I begin this season of Advent and reflect on Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting in the Visitation, I wonder what surprises marked both women at their special moment of reunion. While we don’t know how frequently Elizabeth and Mary saw each other, we can gather from the angel Gabriel’s words in the gospel of Luke that they didn’t see each other everyday or every week. If they did see each other that frequently, Gabriel wouldn’t have needed to tell Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy! These women were cousins, not neighbors. Their relationship–like my friendship with Maria–was also forged across the miles. And so I wonder: in addition to the exciting, important fact that Mary was pregnant, what struck Elizabeth when her young cousin arrived at her house?

Did Elizabeth also marvel at Mary’s height? Was hugging a little harder than it had been in the past because of how far along Elizabeth was in her own pregnancy? Did Mary look as bedraggled as I felt when I arrived in Glasgow? Without the benefit of a scriptural reference, the answers to these questions can only emerge in my prayer imagination, the place where God invites me to discover spiritual truths based on the Bible’s brief sketches of key events in salvation history.

In the space of my prayer imagination, I experience gratitude: that which is rooted in the “visitations” of my own life, as well as in relationships sustained across the miles. Visits are precious, but so too are the friendships that are nurtured through prayer, text messages, phone calls, Zoom calls, and letters. 

These relationships remind me that the unseen bonds of love and friendship are strong and no less real than visits in person. In turn, I am reminded that the unseen bonds of God’s love and friendship with me are also strong. These relationships also inform my sense of mission and ministry, reminding me that “out of sight, out of mind,” is not a useful phrase if I am to live as a member of the Body of Christ. I am always connected to others, even when I can’t remember how tall they are.

Reflection: What comes up in your prayer imagination when you think of Mary and Elizabeth meeting each other after a time apart? What have long-distance friendships taught you about love?