In today’s Gospel from St. Luke, Mary proclaims the words we refer to as the Magnificat, a joyful message that sings of a future of justice and peace brought about through the mercy of God. Mary expresses in this hymn her confidence that God is at work in the midst of a world of struggle and pain.
Speaking of the Magnificat, former Vincentian Superior General Robert Maloney, C.M., once wrote, “The historical Mary experienced poverty, oppression, violence and execution of her son. Her faith is deeply rooted in that context. Before the omnipotent God, she recognizes her own ‘lowly estate.’ She is not among the world’s powerful. She is simply God’s ‘maidservant.’ But she believes that nothing is impossible for God. In the Magnificat she sings confidently that God rescues life from death, joy from sorrow, light from darkness.”
In a similar vein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian-martyr executed by the Nazis, spoke these words in a sermon during Advent 1933: “The song of Mary is the oldest Advent hymn. It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings; this is the passionate, surrendered, proud, enthusiastic Mary who speaks out here. This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind.”
Mary’s Magnificat offerse a message of hope. It is a message we need to hear in our world today: the message that God is still at work, even in the midst of poverty, war, suffering and heartache. The Magnificat is a revolutionary song of salvation; a song that promises that changes can and will happen through the grace of God.