Singing with Mary
I have had the privilege of being a part of the ministry of the Church for many years. I have had the opportunity to serve as a pastor and seminary professor in Puerto Rico, Chicago, the Los Angeles area, Cuba, and, currently, with various theological institutions in the Caribbean. I have learned about the commitment, dedication, the risky witness and courage with which the Church has been a witness of their love of God, their joy of serving God even in the midst of difficulties, and their assurance of hope in the actualization of their Christian dreams and ideals. I have been a witness of the peace that results from living intensely, with a good conscience, as they try to be faithful to Jesus Christ day after day. In these difficult times, it is good to remember that Scriptures offer us, as God’s word, direction and hope. I invite you to meditate in a song that may be a means of blessings.
For me, the stories related to the birth of Jesus are some of the more exciting stories in the Bible. In this passage we find the conclusion of one of the most personal dialogues. Even more, aside from the dialogue between Naomi and her two widowed daughters in law (Rut 1:6-18), the Bible offers very few dialogues where women speak among themselves, and where the women become the chief protagonists in the salvation history.
This portion of the song of Mary is found after Luke tells the story of the Angel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she has found grace in the presence of God, and that she has been chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Gabriel shares with Mary some promises regarding the future of her Son. The soon to be born child will be great, he will be called Son of the Most High, the Lord God will grant him the throne of David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luk1:32-33). Gabriel tells Mary that Elizabeth, her relative, is already in her sixth month of pregnancy, which serves as a confirmation of the angelical announcement. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud voice how God had blessed Mary in a special way, choosing her to be the mother of the Lord (Luke 1:39-45).
Mary responds to Elizabeth with one of the most profound and illuminating songs in the New Testament. This beautiful hymn of praise describes what God has done for Mary, and reveals what God wants to do with the peoples. This hymn is known as the Magnificat for its first word in the Latin translation of the Bible, offers a refreshing message for uncertain and difficult times. It is a hymn that reflects a view of history and an understanding of God’s ways that is very different from the popular traditions that present the Virgin Mary as if she was a submissive, with a quietist piety, and with an attitude of resignation for life difficulties. On the contrary, this hymn is a challenge for us all, so that we may re-evaluate the reasons and the way we live, and, singing like Mary, we may join God’s work in the fulfillment of God’s kingdom.
Mary sings because God saw her, God noticed her existence; calling her to take part in God’s salvific plan. Mary sings because, not knowing it, she becomes an example of God’s interest in the humble and poor. She sings because she has become a witness that God does not discriminate against the poor and despised. Mary sings because God does not pass over those who are considered less than. Mary sings because God does not show solidarity nor takes part with injustices against people just because of their skin color, their health, their last names, or many other discriminatory practices.
Mary sings, and her song reflects a kind of spirituality that shows a way of living the Gospel according to the will of God. It is a liberating spirituality, which affirms the dignity of the poor, which unmasks the injustices, which announces good news that points the way of becoming agents of transformation. It is a spirituality that witnesses joy and thanksgiving, because God is merciful and powerful. It is the spirituality of the children suffering hunger and thirst because exploiters took over the water and set prohibitive prices and costs for food and nutrition. It is the spirituality of the thousands of sick people that pray because they do not have access to affordable quality health care and medicines. It is the spirituality of the abandoned, the elderly with no one extending a helping hand. It is a transformative and liberating spirituality because God’s revelation and solidarity is with the humble.
Mary’s hymn also speaks of a transformative vision of power and economic structures. The hymn describes the inversion of the traditional values in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Mary sings, and with her song she challenges Christians to have a different value system in their lives, one that acknowledges that happiness does not depend in how much money you have. Mary sings of a different future, of a different hope, of a different happiness, of different human relations, and a different spirituality that shows the Church and the world the way to love God and to love one another. It is a spirituality that brings us to the present, so that today we may start making it a reality in our lives. Both, Elizabeth and Mary were women of faith and hope. Their faith and hope allowed them to imagine a new and better future. Nevertheless, history teaches us that this future is still in the making.
When the Gospel according to Luke was written, many years after this song of Mary, the Church was going through difficult times. But the Magnificat was still being sung even though there were injustices, discrimination, pain, illness, oppressing classes and oppressed people. The Church sang the Magnificat when Christians were persecuted and discriminated against because of their faith, when being a Christian was considered to be a cultural superstition, and an illness that needed to be eradicated. But the Church still sings because Luke, as well as Mary, as well as the Church thru history, we are convinced that we can sing and celebrate because God is still with us and has not given-up on us.
Let us sing, brothers and sisters. Let us sing of God’s love for humanity, let us sing of God’s grace that became flesh to provide salvation for us. Let us sing of the joy that brings the good news that God still cares for us, listens to us, extend God’s hand, and shows us a better way.
We can sing because God insists in loving us in spite of ourselves. We can sing, like the angels, like the martyrs, and like so many people that trusted the Lord, we can join our voices as we dream of, walk and work for a better future for the Church, and our world. To God be the glory, amen.
 Although some ancient manuscripts say that this is Elizabeth’s song, the Greek manuscripts and almost all ancient translations and other writings ascribe the hymn to Mary. See Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger. A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006, p. 109.
 The text in the Latin Vulgate says: “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” (Lucam 1:46b).
—Rev. David Cortés Fuentes, PhD