St. Luke 1: 39-56
Mary’s Magnificat is a beautiful song of praise that can only be sung by a young, unwed pregnant woman who has a very different frame of mind - thinking. The Magnificat has nothing to do with the Christological arguments concerning the virgin birth or virginity of Mary - the mother of Jesus. Christian Theology, the Church councils, and the creeds were hell bent with such pattern of thinking.
The Magnificat also brushes aside the subjective experience of an unwed woman who finds herself pregnant in a shame / honor culture. We are not sure whether Mary understood the gravity of her pregnancy, as she was a very young woman. Whatever should have been the case, the Bible is silent of Mary’s emotional struggles, her psychological trauma, as an unwed mother - to be.
The world of Mary before two millenniums was very different from the world we live in today. What can we learn from Mary’s Magnificat as twenty-first century ‘disciples of Jesus’?
At least three profound lessons can be learnt from Mary’s Magnificat. Firstly, Mary sees differently. Secondly, Mary feels differently and thirdly, Mary acts differently.
Mary sees differently
Personally, Mary sees her unexpected pregnancy as a favor from the Lord, not as a shame. Politically, Mary’s Magnificat normalizes justice. Empires, thrones, crowns, citadels are built to be permanent; exclusively for the high, powerful and elite. Also, the Institutions, laws and structures try to institutionalize, politicize, discipline and organize love, God’s work.
But institutions, laws, structures can never contain, or exhaust the work, the Love of God. God works in unexpected, convulsive, torrential ways. Mary was able to see, and discern the hand of God in her personal life.
Mary believed in the God who had control over history, the happenings in the world – big and small. Her belief in an all-knowing and loving God, helped her to have a different perspective. She was not succumbing to fatalism, instead she was celebrating her condition.
Mary feels differently
One of the uniqueness of Old Testament is that it is a Scripture of the former slaves. Moses who was born as a slave - dreamt of liberation. Though he was raised in the palace, he was unhappy when he saw his people suffering.
Mary’s Magnificat is a dream of liberation where the poor are satisfied, the lowly are lifted high. She was able to feel differently, despite her predicament in a shame / honor culture. Mary follows in the line of Moses and other old Testament prophets.
Mary exhibits a great sense of gratitude in her heart. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Gratitude is a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Mary meets her cousin and the exchanges between the two women (Elizabeth and Mary) are full of their heartfelt gratitude to the Lord. The senior and the young, the barren and the unwed (respectively) celebrate God for His unfathomable ways, that can never be comprehended by ordinary human beings.
Mary acts differently
Mary acts differently by submitting herself completely to the will of God. Elizabeth and Mary recognize their mutual vulnerability - love and ask; How, are you? Mary was a woman who accepted the work of God in her life. She began as an unwed mother and a very proud witness to her son Jesus, discussing the Scriptures with the synagogue elders. Jesus was just 12 years old then.
Mary was there to direct her son at the wedding house of Cana, when Jesus entered His public ministry. Mary also had to give up her motherly authority over her son Jesus, when Jesus announced that, the ones who do God’s will be His brothers and sisters.
Finally, Mary had to witness the most feared nightmare of any mother. The death of her first-born son on the shameful cross. She was at the foot of the cross witnessing her son hanging on the cross. But she also witnessed the resurrection of Jesus - the Lord.
What a Glory! Mary, stood by Jesus all through His life accepting the will of God in her and her Son’s life. The Magnificat is to witness and accept God’s work in our Life.
The Magnificat teaches us that God looks upon our vulnerability and sorrow, hears our cry and lament, with that kind of tenderness, attentiveness; and we are called to do likewise.
Dr W S Annie is presently serving as Associate Professor of Theology at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.
Photo by Tadas Mikuckis on Unsplash
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