December 5, 2016

Rejoicing in God

            Protestants have never paid enough attention to Mary. During Advent and Christmas, however, we allow her briefly to be a part of our piety.  We sing about her in carols that describes her as “Gentle Mary, Meek and Mild,” a rather docile and unremarkable figure.  We forget that she was the first disciple, the one who believed before she conceived.

“Madonna and Child” by Tim Ashkar

            It was the “wordless contemplation” requirement that prevented me from ever getting to play Mary in the Christmas drama.  Since I had a voice that could easily be heard throughout the sanctuary, I got to be the head shepherd.  My line was, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem . . .” (with appropriate hand signal!)

“Mary and Christ” by Satheesan A.K.

“Mary and Christ” by Satheesan A.K.

            It has been too facile for the church to imagine, as Leonardo Boff writes, that “all was easy and clear for her—that she knew she was the Mother of God, that her Son Jesus was the Son of the Most High, or that she was the most highly blessed of all women.”  Her story is like ours; she had to walk in the darkness of faith.  For this we should call her blessed.
            And Elizabeth does.  After the blessing of Elizabeth, Mary breaks forth in an exquisite song of rejoicing.  It has dense theological meaning, but it is foremost the song of “a young women shyly placing one hand upon a swelling belly to touch the miracle unfolding within her,” as Wendy Wright puts it.
            In the miracle of her baby, in her own private joy, Mary perceives the blessing of justice for the people of God.  In this celebration, Mary stands squarely within Israel’s prophetic tradition.  This faithful justice of God does not come without pain.  Mary can hardly fathom the pain that will be hers as she lives out her vocation as God-bearer.  Nor can we.
            Mary longs for God to turn things upside down, as her great hymn the Magnificat insists.  For centuries the church has allowed these revolutionary works to sustain hope.  We learn something about the nature of rejoicing from this text.
            Rejoicing is not simply flowery words detailing how wonderful the world is.  Rather, it takes on the urgency of petition, calling God to be faithful to God’s own character.  That is why Mary’s rejoicing sounds as if these mighty acts have already become true.  We can participate in making it so.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares leaders to work for justice in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment