Skip to comments.The Magnificat is a Bold Prayer! [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Posted on 05/30/2011 8:50:41 PM PDT by Salvation
I pray you might indulge me a little speculation that cuts against the usual visuals surrounding the Magnificat. And , if what I say does not please your sensibilities I ask pardon now, and once again your indulgence.
In our western culture we tend to think of Mary in very soft focus, humbly praying, head bowed, quiet and almost shy in her demeanor. And this may all be true. But as I read Marys prayer, the Magnificat day after day, and as I read it todays Gospel, I cannot help but be struck at how bold and charismatic it is. Many of its phrases are taken from ancient Israel and stitched together by Mary in a wondrous and creative way. But as a prayer, it is no gentle meditation. It is one that makes you want to jump to your feet.
My soul Magnifies the Lord! My Spirit REJOICES in God my Savior!
As I have prayed this prayer every day for the last 25 years I have come to experience that I cannot see Mary saying this prayer with hands folded and head bowed. I see, rather, a joyful, young woman, filled with exuberance, head raised in serene confidence and hands upraised in joyful, yes, even charismatic, gestures. African American Catholics often refer to this joyful disposition as havin church, and would say something like: Mother Mary and Sister Elizabeth were havin some church up in there!
The scene sets up with Mary travelling in haste to see Elizabeth. Mary arrives and greets Elizabeth and John the Baptist starts leaping for joy in her womb. You might say he gets things started. The text from Luke then says Elizabeth cried out with a loud voice: Most blessed are you among women ! Mary goes on to respond how her soul rejoices in God her savior. No sour-faced saints here, these women are radiant with joy and exuberantly expressing it. Their havin church alright, joy beyond all measure is theirs.
This sort of exchange is not uncommon among some of the African American women in my parish. A not un-typical dialogue might go something like this:A: Girl, you are looking radiant! B: Yes Lord! Your sister girl is blessed and highly favored! Gods been GOOD to me! A: Go on! . God IS good! B: All the time!
Yes, it seems, from any straightforward reading of the Lucan text, that the Magnificat was not recited, it was boldly and joyfully proclaimed in a moment celebrated by two women. One who had come in haste bearing our savior, and another, filled with the Holy Spirit and her infant dancing for joy in her womb. Two women filled with the joy of God, two women celebrating what God was doing in their lives. Mary proclaims, and she rejoices and says:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; My spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaids lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And it is also a prayer that is also bold, even edgy in its critique of the social order:
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones. He has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.
Mary announces a great reversal that is come. Her Son Jesus echoed it: Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matt 19:30). Some may which to spiritualize these words, and they surely do have a spiritual meaning. But their critique of the vainglory of this world cannot simply be seen as an abstraction or a generality. They have real meaning for the social order here and now. They surely mean we must learn to esteem the poor, the disabled, the weak. In this world they may need us, but as for the world that is to come, we will need them and their prayers to gain entry. And they, if they had faith, will have first places of honor. The reversal is coming, be careful what you call a blessing and what you call unfortunate. Be careful who and what you esteem and who and what you do not esteem. Yes, this is a bold and edgy prayer. It cuts right to the heart of the worlds vainglory.
So again, I beg your indulgence. I am aware that many have rather specific notions of what Mary is, or should be like. The portrait I have here presented is not the usual one in Western culture. But in the end, at least here, I see a portrait of a joyful, exuberant woman who is bold, even edgy in expressing what God is doing for her and for all Israel.
How do you see it?
SING we a song of high revolt;
Make great the Lord, God’s name exalt:
Sing we the words of Mary’s song
Of God at war with human wrong.
Sing we of God who deeply cares
And still with us our burden shares;
God, who with strength the proud disowns,
Brings down the mighty from their thrones.
By God the poor are lifted up;
God satisfies with bread and cup
The hungry folk of many lands:
The rich are left with empty hands.
God calls us to revolt and fight,
To seek for what is just and right.
To sing and live Magnificat
To ease all people’s sorry lot.
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name;
And his mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of his mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
This article hit the spot! Exactly an answer to a wordless prayer, something I had a taste for and didn’t even realize it until I read it—peace to you, Salvation, and thanks be to God for His Love.
**thanks be to God for His Love**
Amen to that!
How much our faith and culture owes to Elizabeth’s simple greeting!
I like to make a little adjustment to this passage, to see if the listeners (family or class) are paying attention. “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “OW, STOP THAT! That’s my liver, you know?”
I love this by John Michael Talbot. The Magnificat.
Holy is His name:
I was a "lay chaplain" for my Sheriff's Office as well as a gun-totin' reserve deputy.
Everybody knew I am Catholic. So one day one of the deputies tells me his wife would like to talk to me.
We met at a coffee shop and got caffeinated while we got to know one another. Then I listened and inserted comments while she told me her "spiritual history".
About an hour or so into it she said, "Whenever I visit St. Thomas Aquinas Church, I just KNOW there is something important, something drawing me,in the tabernacle."
I sat back, took a breath, and said, "There really is nothing more to say, is there? You know what you have to do, it's just a matter of finding the courage and making the decision."
She agreed. The next Easter she entered into full communion.
She has helped with RCIA ever since and is in my "class" of lay Dominicans (D.V., final promises 1/28/2012.)
The other day I reminded her of that exchange and pointed out that it was about the Mystery of the Visitation: Something in her recognized that there was something of ultimate importance in "there".
It was great! She nodded and said, "Yeah." Then she thought and said, "YEAH!"
Glory to God!
That’s the same way I was drawn to Christ in the mass. I still remember attending with a 9th grade friend, the holiness there, that was no where else, that twenty years later led me to RCIA.
One of the most beautiful hymns I have ever heard
Behold! by David Kauffman
When discussing John the Baptist with my Confirmation Class, I reminded them that he was Jesus’s cousin, the son of Elizabeth. He was the ‘herald whose voice was crying in the desert, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”. I posited the notion that John’s leaping in Elizabeth’s womb, was his first ‘herald’ of Jesus’s arrival among us. When I’m praying the Rosary, and get to that Mystery, that’s what always comes to mind.
ROTFL!! As a mother of four, I can relate!
It IS a gorgeous hymn, and an absolute JOY to sing! I’m an alto in my parish choir and we’ve been singing that one for several years.
MY SOUL MANGNIFIES THE LORD
(A biblical reflection on the feast of THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, 31 May 2011)
Gospel Reading: Lk 1:39-56
First Reading: Zeph 3:14-18 or Rom 12:9-16; Psalms: Is 12:2-6
The Scripture Text
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. And Mary said,
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has regarded the low estate of His hand maiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home. (Lk 1:39-56 RSV)
It was remarkable that God chose to bring about His work of redemption through two human babies and their mothers. Jesus was still in Marys womb, yet in His presenceElizabethand her own unborn son, John, were filled with the Holy Spirit. This short but powerful scene gives us a glimpse of the forceful love of God, who simply cannot wait to pour out His life. What a foreshadowing this is of the glory of the risen Christ, who wants to pour out His Spirit on all people!
Elizabeths pure and humble response to the work of God in their lives must have brought great comfort to Mary. In Elizabeth she finally found someone with whom she could share her joy and awe at what was happening in her. Who else at this time could understand the song welling up within Marys heart (Lk 1:46-56)? Rather than being jealous of her younger relatives exalted position,Elizabethrejoiced with Mary and embraced her own supportive role. For her part, Mary did not wait forElizabethto come to her, but hastened to her side.
While this meeting between Mary and Elizabeth is unique, there is something here that we can all experience. As baptized believers, each of us is capable of bearing Christ to others. If our eyes were opened to the glory of this truth, we too would rejoice and be humbled in the presence of so holy a vessel as a sister or brother in Christ. Even non-believers would move us to great reverence because they too are created in Gods image and have just as much potential of being filled with the Holy Spirit. If God has so highly honored human beings this way, how could we fail to show them equal honor?
God used His Son, Jesus, even when He was just a fetus in the womb of Mary, to pour out divine life. Everyone, no matter how strong or weak, has been created as a dwelling place for God. So how can we long for Gods presence and yet disregard Him in the people all around us?
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, as You openedElizabeths eyes in the presence of Mary, so open our eyes to those who also bear Christ. Help us to honor the potential of each person to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Amen.