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Home WHAT’S NEW A Reflection on Mary’s Magnificat during this Final Week of Advent

A Reflection on Mary’s Magnificat during this Final Week of Advent PDF Print E-mail

My soul doth magnify the Lordby Fr. Jacques Nieuviarts, AA

“The Magnificat is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history,” Pope Francis said during his homily on August 15, 2013. He added, “it is particularly strong in places where the Body of Christ is suffering the Passion.” Everything is said of the Magnificat in these few words. It is at this depth that we must meditate on it and sing it. The wonders of God in the Scriptures are always, in multiple forms, passages from death to life. The Magnificat is a song of resurrection. It celebrates God’s life as stronger than death.  The Bible abounds with stories that speak of situations of hopelessness where death appears ready to win out. There is Hagar, Abraham’s servant, wandering in the desert with Ishmael, her son. They are about to die, she and her son, in the middle of the wilderness and drought. She cries out to the Lord; she shouts out her distress. And then the Bible says, in this astonishing way, “God heard the boy’s cry” (Gen 21:17). This isn’t some kind of mistake. It’s the profound truth that cuts across the entire Bible and that characterizes so many psalms: God hears the cry of those who are small; he listens to them (e.g. Ps. 22, Ps. 34). The entire Magnificat sings of this: “He fills the hungry with good things, he sends the rich away empty-handed…he raises up the lowly.”

A voice coming from the springs of God

Mary sings the Magnificat with a clear voice, with a voice that springs from God himself. And her song, in itself, seems to make the whole Bible resonate, the Bible that never ceases to affirm God’s fidelity and his special predilection for the meek and the small…and right from the very beginning.

One should also speak of Hannah, the mother of little Samuel. She would go to the temple in Shiloh every year. There she would pour out her tears for having never born a child. Eli, the priest, got upset with her, thinking that she was drunk. But she was drunk with sadness. Then Eli understood and affirmed that God had heard her and that the following year at the same time she would be holding a child in her arms. That would be the little Samuel and Hannah promised to give him to the Lord. He would become the prophet who would prepare the way of the Lord at the heart of his people and would one day administer the royal anointing to Saul and then David. Hannah, too, would sing a hymn of praise that greatly resembles that of Mary (I Sam 2:1-10), so much so that it is like its ‘ancestor.’ It is the Magnificat nine centuries before Christ’s birth.

God loves the humble. In the Bible they are called the “anawim,” “the poor of YHWH.” But this word describes more accurately those who are bent over, those under the heavy burden of suffering, of poverty, and of misery, of the oppression weighed down on them, and who know that in this misery the only one who will answer their cry is the Lord. That is why little by little they became the figure par excellence of the small and the humble. The Book of Exodus has strong words to express that God hears them and loves them. From the burning bush God says to Moses, “Yes, I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering” (Ex 3:7). But we also find these words: “If he cries out to me, I will listen; for I am compassionate” (Ex 21:26).

Welcoming the Magnificat at the center of our lives

My soul doth magnify the Lord

So all of this is contained in Mary’s hymn. She sang it shortly after the Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to her, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant in spite of her advanced age. Within Elizabeth the Baptist leapt for joy when Mary greeted her. The Precursor recognized Jesus and did so from Elizabeth’s womb. Mary, then, inspired by the Holy Spirit, broke forth with this canticle for it is a song of joy that can only come from God (Lk 1:39-55). It is in this way that we learn where to find the source of this song in our own lives: in the encounter or “visitation”, says the gospel, that is to say in the manifestation of God at the heart of the encounter. There we too find an invitation to recognize in our daily encounters the unexpected and joyful presence of the Lord, the manifestation of his unbelievable nearness to us, leading us to give thanks. So it is that we place ourselves in the line that goes back to the promise made by God to Abraham and “to his children forever.”

To pray and meditate on the Magnificat means allowing God’s new times to turn our lives, our encounters, our pilgrim way, our gestures of welcome upside down. It also means desiring the heart of one who is small, the happiness of humility; it is the place of surprising openness to others, where God works in unimagined ways. It is to understand our life, like Mary, in our memory or in the recognition of God’s promise. He reveals himself to us as well in the sign of the passage from death to life. It is in this way that we too can welcome and sing the wonders that God works in us. This confession of faith is the source of profound joy.

(this meditation first appeared in the latest edition of Assomption et ses oeuvres, #751…translation provided by Fr. John Franck, AA)

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