Mary’s Song

While in Haiti during Advent of 2010, I began to hear more clearly the subversive and prophetic words of the Canticle of Mary. The Magnificat boldly proclaims God has “cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.” Mary sings about the hungry, those who have been denied access to stable food supply, because she believes God promise that the weak and vulnerable will be lifted up. We may sing those words, but we don’t really take them seriously. But the reality is that the birth of God will turn everything upside down. Mary prophesies a new world in which no one is hungry or exploited, when all the lowly are lifted to a place of dignity. (The word that has been translated as “lowly” was often used in Septuagent to refer to the sexual humiliation of women.) And choosing a Virgin to be the Mother of God was no accident; in fact, it spoke loudly to God’s preference for the lowly and the outcast. In the Jewish world of the Old Testament, virginity was not seen as a virtue; in fact, virginity was held in very low esteem, considered to be useless, despised and pointless. Virginity struck a strong negative chord. But Christ, of course, befriended the weak and fragile. The deeper message here is that God makes our barrenness fruitful. And so Mary sings of a time when all who are poor will be filled with the rich bounty of God. That song becomes our song as we feed the hungry and lift up the lowly.

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