Mary’s Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55
Mary’s Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of the Almighty’s servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who fear God
from generation to generation.
God has shown strength with God’s arm;
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped servant Israel,
in remembrance of God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
The following chapter, “Song of Revolutionary Mothers,” is one of fifty-three chapters in the Kairos Center’s publication We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible With the Poor People’s Campaign. It is a powerful reflection on the revolutionary Advent hymn, Mary’s Magnificat, and the role of poor women in organizing a movement to end poverty.
Savina J. Martin
“I picked the group that prayed before their meetings because I knew that without God on our side— we did not stand a chance.”– Dottie Stevens
Mary’s Song, also known as the Magnificat and found in Luke 1, speaks of the spirit and the power of God. In this canticle, Mary speaks of how her soul magnifies the Lord and how God regarded the lowly maidservant. She informs us that generations to come will call her blessed.
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer recognized the subversive nature of Mary’s Song. He spoke these words in a sermon during Advent in 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 song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols.”
The government of Guatemala in the 1980s also recognized the subversive nature of Mary’s Song. The government found Mary’s proclamation— that God is especially concerned for the poor— to be so dangerous and revolutionary that it banned any public recitation of Mary’s words.
Among those who saw their own story and hope in Mary’s Song in the United States was Dottie Stevens, a revolutionary mother from East Boston and a longtime organizer of the poor. Dottie was married at age sixteen and decided to leave home, just as our beloved revolutionary sister Mary did. Facing ridicule as a young wife, she discovered a place to belong among the rank and file of the National Welfare Rights Union. She referred to her decision to join the movement as her political baptism.
Dottie passed away in June 2014 after a battle with cancer. She had been a fighter, survivor, and organizer of the poor most of her life. Courageous in the face of poverty, she fought for many decades for the rights of the poor and dispossessed. She worked with and among many leaders across many fronts of struggle. She stood up to the state apparatus as she raised her fist and banner against injustices done to the poor. Dottie was an artist, an activist, a musician who played the piano, and a mother and wife. She advocated for those who were unfairly treated, those who were let down and left out. She spoke at countless meetings and rallies all over the country for decades, shouting “Up and out poverty, now!”
Just like Mary, Dottie was speaking a song of her time and of the things to come. We know that the poor are blamed for their own poverty. The unhoused are demonized for being homeless, hungry, and in need of rest. And we know that we, the people, have the power to change the course of our lives, with justice and mercy on our side. Let us be reminded of the songs we sing as we build power and take control of our narrative. Let us be called to action in spirit and in truth, joining both the revolutionary mothers of old and those of our time, who sing their song like Mary did.
The Magnificat is a song of salvation, with political, economic, and social dimensions that cannot be blunted. Dottie was an abuse survivor, a teenage wife, and a freedom fighter for justice and mercy for the poor. Through her work on welfare rights, Dottie fought for mothers to be able to put food on the table and have heat and hot water during the winter months.
In her song, Mary speaks to the poor, the hungry, the homeless. People in every society hear the blessing in this canticle.
Why have the words of Mary been repressed throughout history?
What in them is dangerous?
1 Samuel 2:1– 10. This passage is known as Hannah’s Song. Like Han-
nah, we can pray out of our anguish and grief, deeply troubled,
awaiting the birth of what we desire most: justice. Like Mary and
like Hannah, we can also pray out of praise and confidence. Know-
ing God is faithful to lift up the poor, we can be confident that
justice will be born.
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior!
God, you know my pain and my plight. You scatter the proud. You
bring rulers down from their thrones. But the hungry are filled
with good things. The humble are lifted up. This promise from you,
God, is written on my heart. Amen.
“The Magnificat is a revolutionary song of salvation whose political, economic, and social dimensions cannot be blunted. People in need in every society hear a blessing in this canticle. The battered woman, the single parent without resources, those without food on the table or without even a table, the homeless family, the young abandoned to their own devices, the old who are discarded: all are encompassed in the hope Mary proclaims.” – Sister Elizabeth Johnson, 2012
“The Magnificat was banned being sung or read in India under British rule. In the 1980’s, it was banned in Guatemala. In addition, after the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo—whose children all disappeared during the Dirty War (1976-1983)—placed the Magnificat’s words on posters throughout the capital plaza, the military junta of Argentina outlawed any public display of Mary’s song.” – The Subversive Magnificat: What Mary Expected The Messiah To Be Like
Blessed are you among women
Elizabeth and Mary’s first interaction (Luke 1:41b-45)
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
Deborah’s Song – Judges 5:24-27
“Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
of tent- dwelling women most blessed.
He asked water and she gave him milk,
she brought him curds in a lordly bowl.
She put her hand to the tent peg
and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet;
she struck Sisera a blow,
she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
He sank, he fell,
he lay still at her feet;
at her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell dead.
- How have you perceived Mary?
- How have these reading changed your perception of her?
- What are the similarities in Mary and Elizabeth’s interaction and Deborah’s song and Jael?