Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On the Magnificat

The Holy Spirit inspired Elizabeth to declare the blessedness of both Mary and the fruit of her womb. Acknowledging the wonderful things God has done to her, Our Lady bursts into song which now we know by the title “Magnificat”. St. Louie Marie de Montfort (+1716) said that the Magnificat “is the only prayer, the only work, which the Holy Virgin composed, or rather, which Jesus composed in her; for He spoke by her mouth. It is the greatest sacrifice of praise which God ever received from a pure creature in the law of grace. It is, on one hand, the most humble and grateful, and on the other hand, the most sublime and exalted of all canticles.”

St. Louie said that “Jesus spoke by her mouth” because whatever Our Lady sang in the Magnificat would be the content of the teachings of Jesus. She spoke of the paradigm of the kingdom of God as the very inversion of the standards and values of the world: “He has shown the strength of his arm, and 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 empty away.” These words will later on be reflected in the Beatitudes in which our Lord would speak of the blessedness of the poor in spirit, of those who mourn, of the meek, of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, of the merciful, of the pure of heart, of the peacemakers, of those persecuted for the sake of righteousness and of the name of the Lord. Indeed, our Lady, at a very early stage of the gospel, is already singing of the new creation that her Son, the new Adam, is about to inaugurate.

The congruence of the Magnificat with the Beatitudes seems to reveal that both Mother and Son are breathing the same air of the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict speaks of this with great accuracy: “The Magnificat – a portrait of her (Mary’s) soul – is entirely woven from the threads of Holy Scriptures, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. SHE SPEAKS AND THINKS WITH THE WORD OF GOD; the word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word incarnate.” (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 30 September 2010, 28.)

How we should envy our Lady because more often than not, we notice how we sing to a different tune to that of the song of God and of our Lady. It is about us that our Lord makes this comparison with children in the streets calling out to their playmates: “We sang you a song but you did not dance. We played a dirge but you did not mourn.” Many people, Catholics included, say that the Church is too old-fashioned in her teachings – that the Church is out of tune with the present times. Is the Church out of tune or is the world we live in out of tune as compared to the song of God? We want God to dance with the tune we play and by doing so, we forget that it is us who must be converted and who must change our lives in order to be attuned to the will of God. Mary is the perfect Christian because “her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God…her will is one with the will of God.” In Mary we find “an active listening which interiorizes and assimilates, one in which the word becomes a way of life.” (Verbum Domini, 27.)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to me because I'm aware of the premier Catholic Biblical scholar, Fr. Raymond Brown ( appointed to the PBC 1972/ again in 1996...deceased 1998) having annoyed the heck out of me in his "Birth of the Messiah" (pages 348 onward) wherein he stated a disbelief that Mary ever said the Magnificat but Brown proferred instead that Luke got it from Palestinian anawim and Luke was just trying to make the passage look like OT precedents of women receiving a mission and then exclaiming in verse thereafter. Brown supplied no proof but simply conjectures front to back, stem to stern. Good to see Benedict didn't buy into that sideroad. The Pope though was non unscathed from the excesses of modern hermeneutics. Both he and John Paul II leaned in later years toward more and more non violence which made John Paul see the OT death penalties as coming not from God but from unrefined Jewish culture ( Evangelium Vitae section 40) whereas Scripture clearly states that God mandated them to all men for murder (Genesis 9:6) and to the Jews only for personal sins (Leviticus and Deuteronomy). Likewise Benedict seems in Verbum Domini section 42 to totally
    reject the "massacres" of the Old Testament ( which would include the God mandated dooms of the Canaanites one would logically infer) and he proceeds to state that "the prophets rejected every form of violence" on the other hand.
    However Elijah slit the throats of 450 prophets of Baal; Eliseus brought about the death of 42 boys whom he cursed ( not personally offended but in view of his role as prophet...per Aquinas; and the prophet Samuel "hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal" because Saul did not do so per God's doom on the Amalekites. Benedict then was referring to the exilic and post exilic prophets and is overstating therein also since the Maccabees later acted courageously within a just war.
    But I am pleased that Benedict sees Mary in a way other than Brown as to the that she really said it. I'll take what I can get.