Updated: Jan 29
Here we are on the fourth Sunday of Advent. All four candles are lit on the Advent wreath and we are five days away from Christmas.
Anticipation is officially high now.
Today, we read the Song of Mary Magnificat, which she sang to Elizabeth. It is a song that came to her from the Holy Spirit’s presence within her.
We read the first line of that song as saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” where that translation is the New International Version, found in Luke 1:46. In Canticle 15 [and in Canticle 3], the words sung are presented differently, as “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”
In the Greek words written, “Megalynei hē psychē mou ton Kyrion,” the literal translation says, “Magnifies the soul of me the Lord.”
Is it possible to magnify God?
Again, realizing that Mary had burst into song while visiting her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, due to the Holy Spirit, Mary was singing words placed in her mouth by God. While the words she would sing did present God as “Mighty” and “holy,” the purest intent of the words written is not read aloud.
What she said, in essence, was, “I have a soul as a living, breathing human being [“the soul of me”]; but my soul is now on a much higher level, because of God [“The Lord Magnifies the soul of me”].”
Mary had a magnified soul because of the Lord … not because a sixteen year old Jewish girl wanted to please anyone or make herself seem special in the eyes of others.
Thus, thinking delightful thoughts … like those I used to think as Christmas neared and anticipation made my little heart beat rapidly … did not make Mary suddenly “proclaim the greatness of the Lord.” Her exclamation was not because of a momentary uplifting of emotional spirit, brought on by anxious thoughts.
Still, Mary did nothing out of the ordinary. The Holy Spirit of the Lord did everything that became unique to Mary, the mother of Christ.
Based on what Luke wrote [not read today] of the angel Gabriel appearing before Mary, telling her she would become pregnant with a baby to be named Jesus, we now see that she “set out and went with haste” to see Elizabeth. If put in Mary’s place, the “ordinary” thing for a young girl to do is seek some reassurance of mature themes … to find someone who could confirm that she had not just dreamed a wild dream.
Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in her head, Mary was told she would conceive a child and her cousin would also give birth. Such wild thoughts of anticipation for a virgin girl and a barren relative said to be pregnant too!
Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant, at an old age; presumably well beyond the “ordinary” years of childbearing. Could that be another miracle birth, like Sarah conceiving Isaac? Certainly, Elizabeth being pregnant would be proof of an angel’s visit, because no one would ever expect an old woman to be with child.
Mary did not even get a chance to ask Elizabeth anything after she said, “Hello Elizabeth, it is I, Mary, your cousin.” Elizabeth did all the talking … until Mary began singing.
Now in the part of the story not read, where Gabriel visited Mary, the angel told her, “You will conceive and give birth to a son.” When we read, “In those days Mary set out and went with haste,” one can imagine how some time passed after that holy apparition occurred. However, the words written by Luke paint a better picture of how the visit by Gabriel did take place in a dream Mary had.
When you see that possibility, the literal translation says, “Having risen up next, Mary, in the daylight hours after this dream, went into the hill country with haste to a town of Judah.” From that reading, one can see how Mary was immediately affected by the dream and its vivid reality, to the point that as soon as she woke up she had to go visit Elizabeth … at least to tell her what she had dreamed … because Elizabeth had no children, as a barren wife. So, the dream might have been meant for Elizabeth to know too. Mary would have wanted to share that news of knowing that miracle, as well as telling Elizabeth what was going to happen to her.
When we see how Elizabeth immediately knew Mary was “with child,” Mary’s pregnancy began sometime between the dreaming of her sleep and getting to Elizabeth’s house after the sun had risen. There was no time for any “hanky panky” in between.
This miracle birth becomes the primary focus of these readings and the Song of Mary Magnificat., where the Latin says “Mary the Glorified.” The Advent of Christ had been presented to Mary, the would-be mother, who was a virgin girl. Mary experienced a sudden need to share her Good News.
Mary sang out to Elizabeth, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Mary was blessed because she had Jesus growing within her womb. God, the Mighty One, had placed Jesus within Mary as a great changing event in her life. The change in her, more than a miracle fetus beginning to grow at the hand of God, was accompanied by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit surrounding her.
That Holy Spirit spread from Mary to Elizabeth. We read, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, [baby John] leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” too.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are called today to become Mary. The Advent of Christ within Mary becomes a reminder for us that the Advent season calls to us like Gabriel appearing in a dream, sent by God.
We are called to become pregnant with holiness, to have our souls magnified to a righteous level. We are called to feel the beginning of ourselves slowly transforming into the maturity of Jesus’s ministry. We are called to leap with joy at the nearness of that gift that God offers all His faithful priests.
The prophet Micah sang, while also in a state of spiritual movement by the Holy Spirit, “Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth.” That means God lets us do as we please, to be “given up” to our own decisions about worldly matters, until we individually become pregnant with desire to marry God and submit all of ourselves to His will. Submission unto God allows one to receive the spirit, as a holy pregnancy.
Giving birth to a reborn Jesus does not come without some pains, as any mother will tell you. “Labor” is not a walk in the park. However, what “labor has brought forth” makes all the pain is worthwhile.
Thus, Mary sang, “[God] has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”
We must come to the dawning that the universe does not revolve around us. It is the ego that makes it seem that way. To have God “look with favor” upon us, we have to recognize our “lowliness” before God and commit our whole being to God, as “his servant.”
This is the only sacrifice that attracts God’s blessings. In Paul’s epistle to the Hebrew-speaking Jews of Rome he reminded them of Jesus quoting Psalm 40:6-7, which said God was not pleased by the ritual burning of animal flesh.
Jesus said, “These are offered according to the law,” as reminders that sins need to be atoned, by God. Atonement is to be meted individually, and not en masse, through public ceremonies and collective feasts. Neither the killing animals or the releasing of goats into the wilderness does anything to get God’s attention.
Burnt offerings or sin offering are designed to get your attention. Every year you need a wake-up call to get right with the Lord. Or, as some wryly say, “Have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting.”
Jesus added, according to Paul, “See, I have come to do your will.” He did not come to do God’s will, but yours and mine. Jesus came to be the sacrificial lamb for all those individuals who, for so long, were too weak-minded to make themselves sacrifices unto the Lord. They lacked the will to atone for their own sins, so Jesus had to come to do it for them.
Paul said, “[Jesus] abolishes the first in order to establish the second.”
We, of course, think that means the law in the Old Testament has been eliminated by the birth of Jesus, so no more animal sacrifices are required. Being favored by God is no longer just for the Jews, as Jesus came to allow Gentiles into the club called “The Children of God.”
All that legal stuff has long since been replaced by the New teachings of Jesus Christ. We Christians do not have to memorize all 613 of the laws of Moses. The outdated laws can assuredly be tossed away, some do think.
However, that misses the point of our call to be impregnated with Jesus within us.
The reminder of scheduled recognitions – which now includes Advent and Christmas – is that they represent the first demands of God. The first assumes that we see the reasoning behind the laws and move beyond external orders that force us to comply with God’s will, or face punishments. The second step is then to own the law, to have it be a part of our being, so we desire to comply with God’s will, where the only punishment is the loss of self-ego. Jesus was sent so we can have an “ahha moment”: Ooooohhhh! We have to do both one, and then two, because two assumes the first is secured!”
That means it is not our schemes to avoid the law that gets us to heaven, but “by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body.” That “offering” means OUR BODIES, INDIVIDUALLY. Through sacrifice of self we can become “the body of Jesus,” through the advocating of Christ. That transformation only takes place “once,” lasting forever. Thus, “all” must duplicate this two-step process, as Jesus demonstrated for us.
When we see the need to prepare ourselves as sacrifices before God, we can get the feel of that anticipation by singing the Song of Mary Magnificat.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son (within us), and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
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