Mary’s Song

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This passage in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel is also known as the Canticle of Mary, or Mary’s Song. She breaks into this song after her older cousin, Elizabeth, tells her that the child within her womb leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Mary, filled with the Holy Spirit, as she was bearing within her own body, the great mystery of the Son of God, the promised Messiah, exuberantly begins to sing out her awe and wonder in these words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant.”

The song goes on. It is a profound expression of what the One she bears in her womb means to the world, to humanity. She recognizes with profound humility that God, the Almighty One, has looked upon her in her lowliness, and favored her like no other human being in the history of humanity. He has chosen her as the vessel through whom he would take on his humanity and come into this world as one like us, subject to suffering and death. Her song is one of utter humility and awe. She recognizes the mercy of God in what he has done for her, that that mercy stretches over the ages and is available “to all who fear him in every age. (verse 50) What else does her song reveal to us?

Mary’s song recognizes that God’s might is beyond anything the world can bring to bear.

“He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
And he has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
For he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our Fathers,
To Abraham and to his children forever.” (verses 51-55)

This is the One Mary carries in her womb. Her words are the words of the Holy Spirit speaking within her. Christians have heard and contemplated these words down through the ages, especially during the Advent season, as we await the celebration, once again, of the coming of the Lord in a humble manger, in a poor little village, in a far corner of the Roman Empire, at the time of Caesar Augustus’ census. This is the humble beginning of the greatest event in all of human history. This young, innocent woman whom God chose to be the Mother of Jesus, indeed, the Mother of God, is the first among us. Yet, she recognizes that she is merely the humble instrument of God. The focus of her song is not on herself, but on the One whom she carries within her womb. What a great mystery! “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary teaches us here how we should submit to God in our own lives. These words are to be our words too. Are we humble enough, like Mary, to say this to God? Do we have the humility of Mary to recognize that God comes to us every day, even in our lowliness, and wants us to bring him into the world each day through the words and actions of our own daily lives?

Lord, we are nothing without your love. You came among us through the humble response of the virgin Mary, according to your word. Give us a faith like Mary’s so that we, too, can accept you and your awesome graces in our own lives with that same kind of humble awe and wonder. Help us to recognize your daily invitations to us, and give us the courage to respond to you, like Mary, with our own, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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