Mary re-imagines the world

by Broderick at The Jesus Manifesto

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.

— Luke 1:46-55

Mary is not the quaint school girl I would like her to be. She is subversive, rebellious, and prophetic. By the Holy Spirit, she is bursting at the seams with the vision of a world re-imagined. Mary envisions a world turned upside down because of God’s faithfulness to his covenant people Israel.

When the people of Israel would go up to worship the Lord in the Temple, there were a number of songs they would sing. These songs are titled the songs of ascents (Psalms 120-134). These songs were sung on the occasion of the three pilgrim festivals described in the Law of Moses. The songs of ascents tend to be upbeat, hopeful, and full of cheer.An oft-quoted song of ascents is, “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1)

What is interesting about Mary’s song in Luke 1 is that it appears that she takes the tradition of the Hebrew ascent song and writes a song of descent. Mary’s prophetic song takes place upon her visit with Elizabeth, who is carrying her son’s forerunner. In a sheer move of the Holy Spirit, Mary exclaims,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.

This is the first subversion of power that Mary notices, the fact that God did not choose a wealthy celebrity to carry his son, but he chose a lowly servant girl to birth the Prince of Peace. God chose to reconstitute the centers of power from the Temple to the womb of a poor teenage girl. God chose to descend into an inexperienced womb, fertile ground for revolution.

In Mary’s re-imagined world, the proud are scattered, princes are dethroned, the humble are exalted, the hungry are full, and the rich are sent away empty-handed.

For Mary, God is not a distant deity unconcerned with an unjust social order. In Mary’s world, God is passionately concerned with the poor, the hungry, the vulnerable, the humble, and the indefensible. For Mary, the God of Israel is ready to shake the world up, setting it to rights. For Mary, this radical shift of power is made possible because of the baby in her belly. This boy is a little embryo who is destined to offer the world a fresh alternative to suicidal systems and seductive power structures.

Mary is powerfully attuned to Israel’s national story. She is familiar with the story of Abraham and the way God promised to birth a great nation from his loins. She is deeply aware of the way Moses led the people of God out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, embarrassing Pharaoh’s empire with illogical signs and wonders. She knows the God who has shown mercy to every generation of his covenant people.

Then the song ends. It ends as abruptly as it began. It ends with the God who makes and keeps his promise with Abraham. But it ends, nonetheless.

And then Mary stays with Elizabeth for three months. I don’t know why she stayed. But I would like to think that Mary and Elizabeth had some amazing praise sessions where they contemplated the cosmic purposes God had wrought in their unsuspecting wombs.

And I can see Zechariah sitting in the middle of it all, not able to say a word.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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1 Comment

  1. That’s what you get when two women start discussing theology. It’s all subversivey and … stuff.

    Seriously, this is why Chesterton wrote “Gloria in Profundis.” And why Jackson Brown wrote “The Rebel Jesus.” And why I think the Lord of Misrule is a great tradition. When God comes to Earth, He turns everything on its head, not because He does that for fun (as Hermes or Anansi would), but because the world is upside down and He’s setting it right.

    Did you know that in a certain Central American country which shall remain nameless because I can’t remember which one it was, peasants used to wear this passage as kind of an amulet and it was banned when a military junta took over because it was deemed too subversive and this is a really long sentence?

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