Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Song of Mary, Canticle for Sunday 15 December 2013

The Song of Mary, The Magnificat                                                                                                                    **
Luke 1:46-55
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
    for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
    the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
    in every generation.
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 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 help of his servant Israel, *
    for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
    to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Reflection     When you hear the words, Mary, Mother of God, what image comes to mind? For the first part of my life my image of Mary, Mother of God was the tall, slender, blond girl in my Sunday School class wrapped like a holy present in a pale blue sheet. She was the chosen one. I was not. Fortunately I didn’t have to spend too many therapy hours on Mary. After all she made only a cameo appearance once a year on Christmas Eve. I supposed the rest of the year Mary was safely wrapped in tissue paper and stowed away in the church closet. Somehow that image doesn’t quite fit the woman singing The Magnificat.
Who is this Mary chanting a love canticle to God? Who is this Mary singing a subversive  verse for social justice? I believe this is not the twelve year old blond Mary, wrapped in tissue and stored in a closet. This Mary is not fragile or ineffectual, neither is she submissive or impotent. No, this Mary is competent and vulnerable, courageous and fruitful...  without being arrogant, conceited or full of herself. 
When Mary encountered the Angel Gabriel, she didn’t run away, she didn’t become speechless and she didn’t get inflated. When the angel addressed Mary as “Favored one,” and affirmed, “The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1.28) Mary paused and pondered the angel’s words. Her quiet acceptance of the angel’s blessing suggests that Mary had a sense of worthiness.  When the Angel proclaimed that even though she was unmarried Mary would become pregnant and give birth to a son who would receive the throne of King David and his kingdom would reign forever,” Mary was not paralyzed by the paradox. Instead she stood her ground and engaged the angel asking, “How can this be?”(Luke 1.38) When the angel explained that she would give birth to the Son of God,” Mary was both bold and vulnerable saying, “Here I am... let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1.38) 
I much prefer the stand up, engage God and let her life be changed Mary to the passive adolescent wrapped in a blue sheet. If it was up to me I would keep hail and hearty Mary front and center as a paragon of how to be in relationship with God, of how to show up in our lives, how to live in the tension of paradox, how to be vulnerable and take risks. That’s what it means to be courageous; to show up, be vulnerable and take the risk with no guarantees.  And that’s what it means to be fully alive, blessed, transformed and fruitful.
** Image of Manal al-Sharif, a seventeen year old activist in Saudi Arabia today
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