And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’ (NRSV)
There is something ‘magnificent’ about song. At its core, to sing is to play, imagine, express, put voice to the heart. There is truth in the saying: ‘The one who sings, prays twice.’
And so we come to the Song of Mary.
Importantly our story has not, as yet, taken us as far as the birth of Jesus. Mary remains unknown, obscure, hidden away in Elizabeth’s home. Everything – and nothing – has changed since Gabriel appeared. Mary’s is a song of faith.
Mary begins her praise with acknowledgment of the favour shown her. She imagines this work of God celebrated for all time. Mary knows is abundantly blessed and must allow her gratitude to find wings.
Mary is, however, humble enough to know that God is doing much more than simply blessing a young girl. Mary can see the mercy of God extending across generations; the strength of God scattering the proud; the power of God mysteriously pulling down and raising up. God is on the move in Mary and is opening her eyes to see this work across time and space.
Make no mistake, this song is a celebration of the action of God. Mary names the one she sings of from the very first line. She writes of ‘the Lord’, ‘God my Saviour’, and ‘the Mighty One’. And from this focus there is no change. After naming her object of praise our translation uses the terms ‘he’ or ‘him’ no less than 12 (twelve) times. Mary will not let her audience be distracted to anything else.
This is a song exalting God.
Yes, ‘Mary’s Song’ is praise for much more than divine favour bestowed on an individual. This is about a God who is fulfilling promises of old. It encompasses the hope of her nation and extends all the way back to Israel’s birth. It is praise for the impossibly close fulfillment of the ancient and celebrated vision of Abraham.
There is a lot for Mary to sing about. And she does it well. For this peasant girl knows that growing in her is God’s promise of salvation.
Thanks again Mark for helping us to pause and to reflect (like Mary) on ‘the Lord’, ‘the Mighty One’.
What stands out to me is how humble and hungry Mary is: “he has filled the hungry with good things”.
What a contrast between Mary (who was literally filled with good things!) and the inn-keeper (who was simply too pre-occupied to have any room for his most important guest!)