Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Advent

My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

My inner Methodist and my inner radical are not very sympathetic to Marian worship. Too often the traditional worship describes a Good Girl who very meekly and passively agrees to let God have His way with her. In the traditional imagery, she goes from being Good Girl to Good Mother without any of the messiness in between.

And yet, I have always loved the Magnificat without reservation.

The Mary who speaks that prophetic song is anything but a meek passive empty vessel. She is a willing and active collaborator with God. Hers is a bold declaration of a revolutionary agenda, the most revolutionary of all. She proclaims nothing less than the coming overthrow of the World. That world we all live in is driven by death and our fear of it. We are all ruled over by its dismal arithmetic of power and powerlessness, strength and weakness, success and failure; who may versus who must. The Magnificat proclaims this world of conflict, fear, and death to be finite. It will end, but it is not our end.
Mary's song is a promise to history's victims, that the crime and violation that they suffered are not God's will and are not their ends. Their end will be in glory and in victory after victory.
Mary's song is a warning to those who make history. History will end. The great already have their reward. Their reward will end with history, and that in the end, the great shall be no more than the obscure. Glory in the World is fleeting. The whole dismal arithmetic of great and small will be overthrown by an act of God. God will admit us to the Kingdom, not because we've earned the privilege, but only because He desires us to be there.

Because of this promise and this warning, we remember 2 pregnant women -- one only a step away from arrest and execution for adultery -- meeting in a backwater of the Roman Empire.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

I always think of this story in terms of "empowerment." Mary seemed to be able to handle angelic visitations better than most Biblical folk. Everyone's always AFRAID when an angel shows up. Not Mary. She's simply "perplexed." It is the only time the Greek word for "perplexed" appears in the New Testament.

To me, the fact that a unique word was used means, "Mary handled this differently than anyone else ever could."

Unknown said...

Oh, I do not see Mary as the meek and willing girl! For her in that society to make a decision like accepting God's son and carrying him as an unwed mother without consulting her parents took guts! She could have been stoned and she knew it.

I prefer to consider her gutsy, and filled with so much grace. She had to have been a very strong girl - and a strong woman too!