BY LISA HELENE DONOVAN BACALSKI
DAY 8: Mary’s Intimate Magnificat | Friday of the 3rd Week of Advent| 12.22.17
- 1 Samuel 1:24-28. Hannah Presents Samuel to the Lord
- 1 Samuel 2:1-8. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
- Luke 1:46-56. The Canticle of Mary
The verses of Luke 1:46-56 may well be the most famous words of a woman in the Bible. The church prays those words of Mary daily in the Liturgy of the Hours, and throughout the centuries musicians, poets and artists have creatively portrayed the bold words of this young girl from Palestine. It is impossible to count the multitudes who have found sustenance from these verses, and yet it is easy to forget that this proclamation was not made for the sake of history but rather as part of a conversation between God and his humble yet perfect handmaiden.
I often forget that Mary’s Magnificat is first a foremost a prayer, an exultation from her soul directly to God when she meets her cousin Elizabeth. This intimate moment between two friends who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant reminds us that God is always with us, always present when we open our eyes and our hearts.
Recently I had the experience of taking a road trip with a teenage girl and an elderly woman who hadn’t previously met. I anticipated trouble and disagreements, but instead these two women showed me how to be Christ for one another. Though neither actively practices the faith, their kindness and playful attention to each other reminded me how we are called to witness love and compassion.
Just being together in the backseat of a car can lead to understanding. Sometimes we retreat into our separate corners and listen to music on headsets instead of sharing it through speakers. Sometimes we rock out the refrain together at the top of our lungs. Sharing the experience makes us closer, even if we don’t all agree on the best kind of music.
God made us to be social people who grow stronger through our relationships. Confronted with her own unexpected pregnancy, Mary knew that she needed to be with Elizabeth. Her cousin was much older and facing a different challenge in her pregnancy, so Mary undertook a long journey and they shared the experience of their miraculous pregnancies.
Mary’s Magnificat is a prayer, but also a promise to her cousin and by extension all of us. Having been greatly blessed, Mary promises that our God is all-powerful and all-merciful, a God who keeps his promises and takes care of His people. The challenge for many of us is finding our blessings on hard days, recognizing Christ in the person who says no to us.
Our God is a loving Father, but not an indulgent one. It’s easy to forget his steadfast promises when it seems nothing is going our way, but God is there, leading us ever closer to Him through the people we meet in our daily lives. It’s up to us to trust God and discern his message whether we appreciate the messenger or the storyline He seems to have in mind.
When we push away the friends God sends to help, we might suddenly find them in our backseat, along for the ride wherever it leads. Often that ride takes us somewhere unexpected, perhaps even a place we don’t want to go. It is then that God holds us close and reminds us to let others help us to heal our broken hearts, to beckon us from the edge of hopelessness.
For me, “I’m sorry, but you can’t have children,” has echoed through my heart, sometimes louder, sometimes barely a whisper. Blessed as I am in so many ways, I sigh every month when I am reminded that my body will not do what it was made to do. My soul does not proclaim the greatness of the Lord in that moment and for a long time it railed against God.
God never left me alone in my despair. He led me to share my journey with other women and helped my wonderful husband share this burden with me. We met singing in choir, and it is a version of the Magnificat by John Michael Talbot that helped my soul heal from its loss. “For the mighty God has done great things for me, and his mercy will reign from age to age.”
Take a listen to Kim Kalman’s beautiful voice, and welcome the promise of Christ in your heart.
LISA HELENE DONOVAN BACALSKI writes, photographs and tweets for a better world from her home in Northern Virginia. Her career includes parish ministry, advocacy, teaching and a stint in Hollywood, all at the intersection of communications, technology and design. She and her husband Roberto are foster parents and usually cannot keep from either singing or laughing most of the time.