Here’s how I started thinking seriously again about writing about the Magnificat. One of the songs we’re singing at the Advent Choral Celebration this Saturday is called Mary’s Canticle by Leon C. Roberts. It’s a gospel piece that has grandeur and solidity and sureness and guts.
It got me thinking. So here we are.
The Magnificat opens with:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant." (Luke 1:46-48 NIV)
For some reason when I think of Mary singing this (ok, the NIV says “said” but it’s a song), I think of it happening right after the angel's visit but it doesn't. She ponders things quietly in her heart. This song, known as the Magnificat from the Latin version, has been marinating for a while. As she readies and then makes the journey to her relative Elizabeth (about 80 to 100 miles) which takes about a week on foot according Logos, she has plenty of time to consider.
This scene could also be called "when two prophets (and one unborn one) meet". Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit on hearing Mary's voice; she knows Mary is carrying the Messiah.
Mary's song is a response to this, as well as to the angel Gabriel's visit and how she said yes to a radically transformed life.
She's unmarried, pregnant, and very young and should be freaking out, but she begins her song in joy and confidence.
She begins as Hannah began in 1 Samuel 2:1 and where Hannah sings in relief for a longed for child that will increase her status (instead of being belittled), Mary sings in relief that the longed for Messiah is come, that God has answered her prayers and the prayers of her people for a restored Israel.
I keep coming back to how she said yes to God, even though she surely prayed for the restoration of Israel, did she expect to play such a key part in it?