Malankara World Journal Theme: Magnificat, The Canticle of Mary
Volume 2 No. 111 November 29, 2012
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Table of Contents
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The Blessed Virgin (Part
2 of 4) We will answer the following question this week: What does the Bible mean when it says that Mary was blessed? ...
We will answer the following question this week: What does the Bible mean when it says that Mary was blessed? ...
As some of you know, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York during the Depression, and he was quite a character. He would ride the city fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games and whenever the city newspapers went on strike, he would get on the radio and read the Sunday "funnies" to the children.
At any rate, one bitter cold winter's night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city, dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. After he heard a few cases, a tattered old woman was brought before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread.
She told LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. "My store is in a very bad neighborhood, your honor," he said. "She's got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson."
The mayor sighed. He turned to the old woman and said, "I've got to punish you," he said. "The law makes no exception - ten dollars or ten days in jail."
But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ten dollar bill. "Here is the woman's fine," he said, "and furthermore, I'm going to fine everyone in this court room fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."
The following day, the New York Times reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman. It was given by the red-faced store owner, some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations and city policemen - and they all gave their mayor a standing ovation as they handed over their money.
That's how it will be with God's world. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, and goodness and mercy shall never win, the Great Judge will come to set things right, deciding for the hungry and the meek of the earth. Yes, there is also an Advent promise for the nations of the world in perplexity and distress: "Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Source: Erskine White, Together in Christ, CSS Publishing Company
This Sunday in Church
St. Mary's visit to Elizabeth
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
by Pope John Paul II
In the 'Magnificat', the Blessed Virgin proclaims the greatness of God who called her, his humble handmaid, to be the Mother of his Incarnate Son. "With her wise reading of history, Mary leads us to discover the criteria of God's mysterious action. Overturning the judgements of the world, he comes to the aid of the poor and lowly", the Pope said, pointing out that it is humility of heart which the Lord finds especially attractive.
1. Inspired by the Old Testament tradition, with the song of the Magnificat, Mary celebrates the marvels God worked in her. This song is the Virgin's response to the mystery of the Annunciation: the angel had invited her to rejoice and Mary now expresses the exultation of her spirit in God her Saviour. Her joy flows from the personal experience of God's looking with kindness upon her, a poor creature with no historical influence.
The word Magnificat, the Latin version of a Greek word with the same meaning, celebrates the greatness of God, who reveals his omnipotence through the angel's message, surpassing the expectations and hopes of the people of the Covenant, and even the noblest aspirations of the human soul.
He who is mighty has done great things for me
In the presence of the powerful and merciful Lord, Mary expresses her own sense of lowliness: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" (Lk 1:47-48). The Greek word "tapeínosis" is probably borrowed from the song of Hannah, Samuel's mother. It calls attention to the "humiliation" and "misery" of a barren woman (cf. 1 Sam 1: 11), who confides her pain to the Lord. With a similar expression, Mary makes known her situation of poverty and her awareness of being little before God, who by a free decision looked upon her, a humble girl from Nazareth and called her to become the Mother of the Messiah.
2. The words "henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1:48) arise from the fact that Elizabeth was the first to proclaim Mary "blessed" (Lk 1:45). Not without daring, the song predicts that this same proclamation will be extended and increased with relentless momentum, At the same time, it testifies to the special veneration for the Mother of Jesus which has been present in the Christian community from the very first century. The Magnificat is the first fruit of the various forms of devotion, passed on from one generation to the next, in which the Church has expressed her love for the Virgin of Nazareth.
3. "For he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name, And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation" (Lk 1:49-50).
What are the "great things" that the Almighty accomplished in Mary? The expression recurs in the Old Testament to indicate the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt or Babylon. In the Magnificat, it refers to the mysterious event of Jesus' virginal conception, which occurred in Nazareth after the angel's announcement.
In the Magnificat, a truly theological song because it reveals the experience Mary had of God's looking upon her, God is not only the Almighty to whom nothing is impossible, as Gabriel had declared (cf. Lk 1:37), but also the Merciful, capable of tenderness and fidelity towards every human being.
4. "He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away" (Lk 1: 51-53).
With her wise reading of history, Mary leads us to discover the criteria of God's mysterious action. Overturning the judgements of the world, he comes to the aid of the poor and lowly, to the detriment of the rich and powerful, and in a surprising way he fills with good things the humble who entrust their lives to him (cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 37).
While these words of the song show us Mary as a concrete and sublime model, they give us to understand that it is especially humility of heart which attracts God's kindness.
God fulfils his promises in Mary with abundant generosity
5. Lastly, the song exalts the fulfilment of God's promises and his fidelity to the chosen people: "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever" (Lk 1:54-55).
Filled with divine gifts, Mary does not limit her vision to her own personal case, but realizes how these gifts show forth God's mercy towards all his people. In her, God fulfils his promises with a superabundance of fidelity and generosity.
Inspired by the Old Testament and by the spirituality of the daughter of Zion, the Magnificat surpasses the prophetic texts on which it is based, revealing in her who is "full of grace" the beginning of a divine intervention which far exceeds Israel's messianic hopes: the holy mystery of the Incarnation of the Word.
Source: L'Osservatore Romano
by Dr. Phil Ryken
In 'The Incarnation in the Gospels' (P&R Publishing, October 2008) coauthor Philip G. Ryken calls Mary's Magnificat the first of four nativity hymns in Luke's Gospel. The other hymns, he tells readers, are Zechariah's Benedictus, the angels' Gloria, and Simeon's Nunc Dimittis.
Quoting author and theologian Graham Scroggie, Ryken identifies these songs as "the last of the Hebrew psalms, and the first of the Christian hymns." They appear only in Luke because, Ryken suggests, Luke understood that "the gospel is and must be a musical." It is not enough "simply to say what God has done to save us," he writes. "What He has done needs to be celebrated in song."
Ryken spoke about the insights we can glean from the very first Christian hymns. Here, we explore how Mary, a young girl, could have composed something so beautiful and theologically profound as the Magnificat.
Mary's Magnificat is a sophisticated piece of poetry. You point out that there are echoes from Hannah [Samuel's mother] in it, and that it either quotes or alludes to verses from 11 books of the Old Testament. How does a young girl extemporaneously compose something so complex?
Reading the Magnificat, you can't help but come away with an enormous appreciation for Mary's maturity. In this song, we get a sense of her insight into spiritual matters and we hear her joy in the Lord. But more than that, there's something of Mary's character reflected in this song. You not only see an intimate relationship with the Lord, but an almost inexplicable capacity for putting it into words.
How did she do this? The first thing we need to remember is the role of the Holy Spirit in inspiration. Ultimately these aren't merely the words of Mary, but the words of God. Which, of course, makes us wonder how God worked in Mary's life: How, in His sovereignty, did He produce this kind of worship in someone so young?
One of the unavoidable conclusions, I think, is that Mary was raised in the Scriptures. I have to believe that Scripture reading was part-and-parcel of her family life - that she memorized portions of Scripture, and used them regularly in some sort of personal devotion.
When you look at how Mary's song is organized, it reminds me of a patchwork quilt, the kind that takes persistence to create, that requires familiarity with the fabrics, years of experience, and a thorough knowledge of how, exactly, these disparate materials can be stitched to form a beautiful pattern. This song is like scraps of fabric brought together from various places in the Old Testament. It's fabric Mary knows, fabric she's worked with many times before - and with it, she produces something beautiful.
In the Magnificat Mary is magnifying the Lord. It is a "song of gospel joy" but she doesn't mention Jesus by name. Why do you suppose that is?
We need to understand Mary's words in the context of the announcement that she has heard. Her song, everything she says in these verses, has to be understood in the context of Messianic expectation, and of her obedience to the Lord.
To magnify means to enlarge, and that's what Mary wants to do - enlarge her vision of God. Therefore, she broadens her song, focusing first on what God is doing in her life, and then to the broader purposes of redemption.
In this song we see some of what the Christ will accomplish through His kingship. We hear Mary worship His power, she makes reference to His holiness, she expresses an awareness of His mercy for sinners, and she praises His faithfulness … . We see that she, when confronted with what God is doing in the world, can't stay focused on her personal circumstances. As she begins to grasp how God will work through the birth of this child, she has to rejoice in His character.
There's also a sense of deliverance in this song, a sense of God lifting the humble. As she composes this song, Mary's aware that she's a nobody; she knows she's a sinner. That's why she praises God as her Savior. Though none of us will have an experience like Mary's, ultimately, God worked in her life the same way He works in ours. He exalts the humble, He does great things for those who honor Him, He shows mercy to those who fear Him. And so there's a strong flavor of deliverance in Mary's song, a sense that God will bring in a new era of salvation.
In the second half of Mary's song you point out that the personal becomes national and international. What do you mean by that? And why is it central to the Christmas story?
In the opening verses Mary speaks personally: "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior." "My soul magnifies the Lord." She talks about how God looks on the humble estate of His servant, and how all generations will call her - personally - blessed.
It's always appropriate to be grateful to God for what He has done in our lives but, when we view His work from too narrow a perspective, our gratitude can become self-indulgent or even prideful. Mary doesn't make that mistake. She recognizes what God has done in her life, but then she broadens her view, she sees that "this mercy is not just for me; it is a mercy for many." She expands from the personal outward - to the community of faith, to those who, with her, fear the Lord.
In [Luke 1] verse 50 she shifts to, "His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation." This language of "generation to generation" is Old Testament language for the people of God, for the communion of saints from one generation to the next. There's a breadth of vision here. Mary goes beyond what God is doing in her life, and sees that it's a part of what God is doing in the world.
If we think about our own experience - about how we praise God for the Incarnation - we want to do the same. We want to recognize what God has done for us, but we want to see the big picture, too. We want to see the coming of His kingdom and the great reversal - of how Christ will humble the pride of intellect and humble the pride of position and humble the pride of wealth … .
Mary understood that Christ would turn things upside down. She knew, somehow, that Christ would exalt the humble servant who does His will, and that He'd humble the proud who refuse to acknowledge their need for God. This has to be part of the Christmas story, because it's a part of why Christ came.
Mary is able to see the personal implications of God's grace, but she also sees the communal implications. It's a model for our own praise and meditation on the true meaning of Christmas.
Dr. Phillip G. Ryken earned a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and a doctorate in historical theology from the University of Oxford. Ryken joined the pastoral staff at Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philadelphia in 1995, and became the senior minister in 2000. He's currently the president of Wheaton College.
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 1:46-55
When the angel Gabriel (1:26) told the young virgin Mary that she was going to have a child who would be the Son of God and reign over the house of Jacob forever (1:32f.), she said, "How can this be?" He answered her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her so that the child's conception would be divine. And then he gave Mary the added confirmation that nothing is impossible with God by telling her that her kinswoman Elizabeth who was old and barren was also pregnant. So according to Luke 1:39 and following:
The angel had told Zechariah in Luke 1:15 that John the Baptist would be filled with the Spirit even from his mother's womb. That is, the Spirit of God would exercise a unique control on this man from the time he is in his mother's womb until he completes his ministry as a grown man.
Then Luke gives evidence of this: Mary approaches, carrying the Son of God in her womb, and little John gives Elizabeth a good kick in the diaphragm. Then Luke says that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out: "Mary, my child is leaping for joy. The Holy Spirit has helped him before he can even speak to bear witness to the Lord in your womb."
Mary's Godliness Shown
That's all the confirmation Mary needs. She sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important three decades in all of time are about to begin. And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women - one old and barren, one young and virginal. And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song - a song that has come to be known as the Magnificat.
Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke's account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most, it appears, and the thing he wants to impress on Theophilus, his noble reader, is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth says (1:43): "And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?" And Mary says (1:48): "The Lord has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden." The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary - people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.
I think we should notice one other way that Mary's godliness shows itself. Do you remember the story of Samuel and his mother Hannah? Hannah had no children and was abused by other women because of it, and she prayed earnestly that the Lord would give her a son. And he did. Well in 1 Samuel 2 Hannah sings a song of praise which is very similar to Mary's song:
Hannah also prayed and said,
Did you hear the parallel expressions and ideas? For example:
The parallels are not word for word; neither Mary nor Luke is quoting the Old Testament.
Instead it seems to me that Mary is so steeped in Scripture that when she breaks out in praise, the words that come naturally to her lips are the words of Scripture.
Being a young woman, she probably loved the stories of the Old Testament women of faith like Sarah, Deborah, Hannah, Ruth, and Abigail. What an admonition to us all, both women and men (young and old - Mary probably was not over 15): to steep our minds and hearts in the Scriptures day and night so that the words and thoughts of Scripture fill our mouths as naturally as they did Mary's.
Let's look briefly at what she says in her praise to God. I see three distinct sections in the Magnificat.
First, there is Mary's expression of what she feels in her heart (verses 46 and 47), namely, joy.
Second, she mentions what God has done specifically for her as an individual (verses 48 and 49): regarded her lowliness, did great things for her, and thus gave her an enduring reputation for blessedness.
Third, she spends most of the time describing the way God is in general. This general character of God accounts for why he has treated her the way he has in her lowliness and thus leads her to rejoice and magnify the Lord.
We'll look at these three sections in reverse order.
The Holy God Helps the Lowly
In the second half of verse 49 Mary makes the general statement that God's name is holy. That is, God's nature, his essence is holiness. He is completely free from sin, and his ways are not our ways. He is separate from and exalted above the creature. All his attributes are perfect, and they all cohere in a perfect harmony called holiness. But what Mary stresses is the way this holiness expresses itself. And her words are a warning to Theophilus and to us not to make the common mistake that because God is great, he is partial to great men, or because God is exalted, he favors what is exalted among men. Just the opposite is the case. God's holiness has expressed itself and will express itself by exalting the lowly and abasing the haughty.
What fills Mary's heart with joy is that God loves to undertake for the underdog who calls on his mercy. She mentions this three times: verse 50, "He has mercy on those who fear him"; verse 52, "He has exalted those of low degree"; verse 53, "He has filled the hungry with good things." That's one side of God's holiness. The other side is that God opposes and abases the haughty. Mary mentions this three times also: verse 51, "He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts"; verse 52, "He has put down the mighty from their thrones"; verse 53, "The rich he has sent away empty."
It is clear from Mary's words (and from the whole Bible) that God is not partial to the rich, the powerful, or the proud. How could God be partial to the things which in our world are, more often than not, substitutes for God rather than pointers to God? Vast numbers of people have perished because they were enamored by pride, power, and wealth. And probably Theophilus, as a ranking Roman official, has all three.
So Mary's Magnificat is not just recorded out of pure antiquarian interest. There is a word of warning and of salvation here. Theophilus, look at what God is really like. He is not the least impressed by any of your pride, power, or opulence. He has mercy on those who fear him, who humble themselves and turn from the ego boosting accumulation of wealth to the lowliness of self-denial for the sake of others. This is the way God is, Theophilus. This is how his holiness expresses itself.
Does this not commend itself as true, that the great and holy God should magnify his greatness by blessing the lowly who admire his greatness and by abasing the haughty who resent his greatness?
The Holy God Blesses Mary
That's the third section of the Magnificat. Now we move back to the second section, verses 48–49a. Here Mary simply sees in her own experience an example of the way God is. He condescends to Mary's lowliness and does a great thing for her: he makes her the mother of God! It is such a singular and unimaginable blessing that all generations from that time on have acknowledged Mary's blessedness. Once Mary learned from the song of Hannah and all the Old Testament that God abases the proud but blesses the lowly who look to him for mercy, but now she has found it to be true in her own experience. Probably it is because she had learned it so well from Scripture that she was ready and able to experience it herself.
Mary's Heart Magnifies the Holy God
Mary's spiritual beauty reaches its emotional peak in the first part of her song where she responds from the heart to all God did for her, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."
How does a soul magnify God? A mouth magnifies God by saying, "God is magnificent," by speaking his praises. But no one hears a soul. No one but you and God. But I doubt that Mary means she is verbalizing a silent prayer. I think she means that at this moment her soul feels the greatness and holiness and mercy of God. And the feeling is primarily one of joy. "My spirit rejoices in God!"
Two weeks ago I preached on Psalm 69:30, "I will magnify God with thanksgiving." Now we learn the truth that we also magnify God by rejoicing in him. And just like I did then, I want to close now with this point: it is good news to learn that we magnify God by rejoicing in him. It's good news because we are commanded to glorify or magnify God (1 Corinthians 10:33; Romans 1:20f.), and this command could be a terrible burden if we weren't told that the only way to fulfill it is to relax and be happy in the mercy of God. That is what magnifies God most.
© Desiring God Source: desiringGod.org
By Msgr. Charles Pope
I pray you might indulge me a little speculation that cuts against the usual "visuals" surrounding the Magnificat. And , if what I say does not please your sensibilities I ask pardon now, and once again your indulgence.
In our western culture we tend to think of Mary in very soft focus, humbly praying, head bowed, quiet and almost shy in her demeanor. And this may all be true. But as I read Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat day after day, and as I read it today’s Gospel, I cannot help but be struck at how bold and charismatic it is. Many of its phrases are taken from ancient Israel and stitched together by Mary in a wondrous and creative way. But as a prayer, it is no gentle meditation. It is one that makes you want to jump to your feet.
As I have prayed this prayer every day for the last 25 years I have come to experience that I cannot see Mary saying this prayer with hands folded and head bowed. I see, rather, a joyful, young woman, filled with exuberance, head raised in serene confidence and hands upraised in joyful, yes, even charismatic, gestures. African American Catholics often refer to this joyful disposition as "havin’ church," and would say something like: "Mother Mary and Sister Elizabeth were havin’ some church up in there!"
The scene sets up with Mary travelling "in haste" to see Elizabeth. Mary arrives and greets Elizabeth and John the Baptist starts leaping for joy in her womb. You might say he gets things started. The text from Luke then says Elizabeth "cried out with a loud voice: Most blessed are you among women…!" Mary goes on to respond how her soul rejoices in God her savior. No sour-faced saints here, these women are radiant with joy and exuberantly expressing it. Their havin’ church alright, joy beyond all measure is theirs.
This sort of exchange is not uncommon among some of the African American women in my parish. A not un-typical dialogue might go something like this:
A: Girl, you are looking radiant!
Yes, it seems, from any straightforward reading of the Lucan text, that the Magnificat was not recited, it was boldly and joyfully proclaimed in a moment celebrated by two women. One who had come in haste bearing our savior, and another, filled with the Holy Spirit and her infant dancing for joy in her womb. Two women filled with the joy of God, two women celebrating what God was doing in their lives. Mary proclaims, and she rejoices and says:
And it is also a prayer that is also bold, even edgy in its critique of the social order:
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones. He has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.
Mary announces a great reversal that is come. Her Son Jesus echoed it: Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matt 19:30). Some may which to spiritualize these words, and they surely do have a spiritual meaning. But their critique of the vainglory of this world cannot simply be seen as an abstraction or a generality. They have real meaning for the social order here and now. They surely mean we must learn to esteem the poor, the disabled, the weak. In this world they may need us, but as for the world that is to come, we will need them and their prayers to gain entry. And they, if they had faith, will have first places of honor. The reversal is coming, be careful what you call a blessing and what you call unfortunate. Be careful who and what you esteem and who and what you do not esteem. Yes, this is a bold and edgy prayer. It cuts right to the heart of the world’s vainglory.
So again, I beg your indulgence. I am aware that many have rather specific notions of what Mary is, or should be like. The portrait I have here presented is not the usual one in Western culture. But in the end, at least here, I see a portrait of a joyful, exuberant woman who is bold, even edgy in expressing what God is doing for her and for all Israel.
How do you see it?
by Fred Kaan
SING we a song of high revolt;
Make great the Lord, God’s name exalt:
Sing we the words of Mary’s song
Of God at war with human wrong.
Sing we of God who deeply cares
By God the poor are lifted up;
God calls us to revolt and fight,
(A biblical reflection on the feast of THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY)
Gospel Reading: Lk 1:39-56
The Scripture Text
It was remarkable that God chose to bring about His work of redemption through two human babies and their mothers. Jesus was still in Mary’s womb, yet in His presence Elizabeth and her own unborn son, John, were filled with the Holy Spirit. This short but powerful scene gives us a glimpse of the forceful love of God, who simply cannot wait to pour out His life. What a foreshadowing this is of the glory of the risen Christ, who wants to pour out His Spirit on all people!
Elizabeth’s pure and humble response to the work of God in their lives must have brought great comfort to Mary. In Elizabeth she finally found someone with whom she could share her joy and awe at what was happening in her. Who else at this time could understand the song welling up within Mary’s heart? (Lk 1:46-56) Rather than being jealous of her younger relative’s exalted position, Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary and embraced her own supportive role. For her part, Mary did not wait for Elizabeth to come to her, but hastened to her side.
While this meeting between Mary and Elizabeth is unique, there is something here that we can all experience. As baptized believers, each of us is capable of bearing Christ to others. If our eyes were opened to the glory of this truth, we too would rejoice and be humbled in the presence of so holy a vessel as a sister or brother in Christ. Even non-believers would move us to great reverence because they too are created in God’s image and have just as much potential of being filled with the Holy Spirit. If God has so highly honored human beings this way, how could we fail to show them equal honor?
God used His Son, Jesus, even when He was just a fetus in the womb of Mary, to pour out divine life. Everyone, no matter how strong or weak, has been created as a dwelling place for God. So how can we long for God’s presence and yet disregard Him in the people all around us?
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, as You opened Elizabeth’s eyes in the presence of Mary, so open our eyes to those who also bear Christ. Help us to honor the potential of each person to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Amen.
by Ted Schroeder
Henry James wrote in Ivan Turgenieff, "Life is, in fact, a battle. Evil is insolent and strong; beauty enchanting but rare; goodness very apt to e weak; folly very apt to be defiant; wickedness to carry the day; imbeciles to be in great places; people of sense in small (a comforting thought); and mankind generally unhappy."
That is why the world needs to hear the Gospel in the Magnificat. The soul of every human being can glorify the Lord and rejoice in God when an individual, no matter what her status and circumstance, discovers that God is her Savior; that God has done great things for her; that the Holy and Mighty One extends to her his mercy: and to all who believe that what the Lord said to her will be accomplished.
We need to hear the song of Mary so as to drown out the beguiling sirens of the world, who would entrance us into steering our ship of life onto the rocks where we would perish. Like Odysseus we sometimes have to close our ears so that we are deaf to their entreaties - the temptation to find our salvation in material goods and temporal gain. Instead, like Mary, we need to get away to the hills, and find time and companions who will affirm that what the Lord is saying to us, will be accomplished.
by Charles Henrickson
Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
What Luke does in the first few chapters of his gospel is to tell his story on sort of a two-track model, first telling us something of how John the Baptist came on the scene, and then switching over to tell us something of the arrival of Jesus Christ. Our text today is one of the places where these two storylines intersect. It's the account of "The Visitation," that is, the visit of Mary to Elizabeth while both women were expecting their very special children. You could call this story "The Meeting of the Moms."
"The Meeting of the Moms":
Aged Elizabeth, the mother-to-be of John the Baptist. Young Mary, the mother-to-be of Jesus the Christ. Both women were granted these children under very unusual circumstances, to say the least! Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah both were well advanced in years and had been unable to have children. Mary was not yet married, and as a virgin therefore she became pregnant in a most miraculous way. Both women received their special roles in God's plan with humility and faith. Both women rejoice in realizing what God is doing through them. But today as we drop in on the Visitation and see Mary and Elizabeth, while we see "The Two in the Room," let's not forget "The Two in the Womb," for it is really John the Baptist and Jesus who will carry the story forward.
So Elizabeth is about six months along, and Mary has just conceived. Mary goes from her home in Nazareth up north down to the hill country of Judah, to the home of her relative Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. Mary enters the house and greets Elizabeth, and as she does, something remarkable happens: The baby leaps in Elizabeth's womb! Remember what the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah about John? "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." And so here, even inside his mother Elizabeth's womb, "John the Baby" can sense that he is in the presence of the one greater than he, the Messiah whose way he would prepare.
Elizabeth, herself filled with the Holy Spirit in order to recognize what is going on, tells Mary, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." So here we've got John filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, and Mary, whose child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. In each of them, the Holy Spirit is pointing to Jesus and so is producing joy.
That's how it is with us, isn't it? We hear about Jesus, we are in the presence of Jesus, and we are filled with joy! The Holy Spirit is doing his work in our hearts, pointing us to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and nothing could be more joyful than that.
And so it is that Mary rejoices, and the result is her magnificent song that we call the Magnificat. "Magnificat" means "magnifies," and it is simply the first word in Latin in this song, which begins, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." Mary is magnifying--proclaiming the greatness of--the Lord. It's like what you do when you use a magnifying lens. You focus on the object in the lens, and it becomes great in your sight.
The thing is, when Mary magnifies the Lord, it's not as though he was small and needed to be made greater. No, the Lord God is great in himself. But when we focus our attention on him, on his character and goodness, on the great things he is doing on our behalf, then we are magnifying the Lord like Mary did. We do that here in our worship, don't we, in our liturgy and hymns. We consider and ponder how good and great the Lord is, and we give words to our praise, lifting up our voices in song. All of our worship is one great "Magnificat."
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior," Mary says, and then she goes on to say why. The first reason she gives is about what the Lord has done for her in particular. She says, "For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." Mary is talking about her unique and unrepeatable role as the mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth had just called her "blessed," and from that point on all generations will call Mary "blessed," because of the great honor bestowed on Mary to bear the Savior of the world.
This is God's doing, Mary's blessedness is, and Mary knows it. She humbly acknowledges that "he who is mighty has done great things for me." Mary has no grace or greatness or blessedness in herself. She is but the vessel for the Lord's mercy embodied in the holy child she is carrying. Mary would agree: It is the Lord's name, not hers, that is holy and to be magnified.
Mary continues her song, and now she moves from the blessing the Lord has bestowed singularly on her, and she expands her scope to take in how the Lord deals mercifully with those who trust in him in all times and all places. "And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation," she says. Dear friends, don't think of these Bible accounts as something that happened only for those people way back when, in ancient Israel. No, by no means! God's mercy is for you, here and now, just as much as it was for Mary and Elizabeth. God didn't love them any more than he loves us. His mercy is for all generations.
God's mercy is that he sees us in our distress and he acts to help us. Mercy is God's answer to our misery. All the heartache, all the misery, all the sorrow and distress we experience--sickness and sadness; disease, depression, and death itself; our broken relationships, the hurt and damage we stupid sinners inflict upon one another--God sees it all, he knows how messed up we've made things.
How about you? How are you hurting? Is it the pain of seeing your loved ones in the hospital or the nursing home? Is it the sense of loss, as more and more of the people in your life are no longer around? Is the hurt and regret due at least in part to how you yourself have messed things up? Your sense of guilt and failure, not being the kind of person you know you should be? All these things can weigh heavily on our heart, adding to our distress. We need mercy, God's mercy to help us in our misery and lift us up.
That's how God acts. That's what Mary sings about next: "He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty."
This is what we call the Great Reversal. God flips everything upside-down from the world's perspective. Those who are high and mighty in their own thinking, and maybe in the eyes of the world--those folks God brings low in the end. On the other hand, those who are lowly of heart, bowed down and crushed--these the Lord lifts up. The proud and the satisfied God resists and sends away. The humble and the hungry God raises up and fills with good things.
How do you stand before God? Are you secure in yourself, satisfied with how good you are and your own righteousness? You need to repent. Recognize your sinfulness and your need for a righteousness not your own. Or are you well aware of how you are nothing but a poor miserable sinner before God, entirely dependent on his mercy and forgiveness for anything good you may receive? Then hear the good news: God is merciful and he does forgive your sin, for the sake of that little child Mary will bear. God cleanses you of your guilt, washes it away in the blood of Christ and in the waters of your baptism.
Yes, God's mercy and his forgiveness, all of his help and salvation, all your hope of everlasting life--all of this is located in the little child in Mary's womb. For the Christ child, Jesus, born at Christmas, will be the one to lift you up, even as he is lifted up on the cross. God has seen our distress, our sin and death, and he has acted in mercy to save us, in the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. If you know your need for God's mercy, then put Jesus Christ in your magnifying lens. Focus on him, for it is in and through Christ that the Mighty One has done great things for you.
Mary concludes her Magnificat with words befitting a daughter of the covenant. She says, "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever." The Lord God had made a promise to his people of old, and God remembers his promises. He is faithful to his covenant, to fulfill it. The covenant the Lord made to Abraham was that he would bless Abraham and that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Now in the coming of this son that Mary is bearing in her womb--now God is fulfilling his word. This is the seed of Abraham that Mary will bear. The promise is coming to fruition in the fruit of her womb.
Dear friends, our faithful God is true to his promises to you. Today come and receive the new covenant, established in the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. This covenant, this promise, is that you have life in his name, everlasting life. God will bring this to pass, even as he fulfilled the covenant of old with Abraham. You have God's word on it.
Today, fellow faithful, you and I have been privileged to attend the greatest baby shower of all time. It's "The Meeting of the Moms," the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. As we see "The Two in the Room," don't forget "The Two in the Womb," John the Baptist and Jesus. Especially Jesus, don't forget about him.
Put Jesus in your magnifying lens, and you will see the mercy of God come in the flesh. As you do, you will say, with Mary, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."
Scripture: Luke 1:26-56
In Part 1 of this essay published in Issue 110, we examined the theology behind the statement that Mary is blessed. The author suggested that the grace received by Mary is due to the work of God. so, what is said about the blessedness of Mary may, in a certain sense, be said about the entire church. The question on the virgin's blessedness can be reduced to three questions:
We will be looking at point #1 today. Points 2 and 3 will be examined in future editions.]
I. What does the Bible mean when it says that Mary was blessed by Gabriel and Elizabeth, "blessed among women" and by Mary that "all generation will call me blessed."
A. There are two possibilities as to what this might mean grammatically.
Either it means that Mary is the recipient of God's blessing or that Mary is the source of blessing.
1. If Mary is the recipient of God's blessing, it means that she is blessed among woman because she has received something from God that others have not received.
a. This is the way you might speak of someone like Job (before his troubles began)...
You look at Job in his prosperity and you say,
All you had to do was look at his life and you could see God's blessing.
b. Paul speaks this way of the Ephesian church which consisted of those who had recently received God's salvation in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 speaks of these blessings when it says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
They were blessed because they were the recipients of God's blessing through Jesus Christ.
TRANS> So, grammatically, when the scripture says that Mary was blessed, it may mean that she is the recipient of God's blessing.
But now consider the other possibility:
2. When the scripture says that a person is blessed, It can also mean that a person is the source of blessing to others.
a. Certainly, this is what we always mean whenever we speak of the blessedness of God,
1) When you say that God is "blessed forever" you are not saying that there is someone who is there continually enriching Him with blessings... When we bless God, we do not enrich Him, but we declare Him to be the source of all blessing!
We are not looking at Him and saying, "Look at all the wonderful things that have been given to you. You certainly are blessed..." But we are looking at Him and saying, "Look how good He is, how full He is of good things."
b. But is it possible that such blessedness can be ascribed to human beings?
The answer is "yes," but a qualified yes.
1) Look a Job again. There was a sense in which he was a fountain of blessing that others could come and drink from.
He had widows and orphans coming to him for sustenance and protection...
2) Certainly, under God, you can be a blessing or a curse to others...
And if someone is a blessing to you, you speak of that person as a blessing in this secondary way.
You ought to always thank God, however, as He is the one from whom all blessings
But still, it is not improper to say that a person is blessed.
TRANS> And so you see that grammatically, the blessedness of Mary could refer
B. So which of the two is true of Mary?
1. It seems quite clear from the context that Mary is called blessed first and foremost because she is the recipient of God's blessing.
a. When Gabriel speaks to her, he tells her that she is going to conceive and bring forth a son who is to be the Messiah...
1) He tells her this by referring to the Messiah by a number of scriptural titles, and it is clear that Mary understands that somehow she is to conceive this child in her virginity... For she asks, "How can this be since I do not know a man?" which means, since I have never had sexual relations with a man?
2) Clearly, Gabriel is not telling her that she is blessed above other women in that she has more to give than others, but rather in that she is going to be given a privilege by God that no other woman will be given!
Conceiving this child in her virginity clearly places this as a work of God, not a work of Mary!
She could well sing Psalm 115 with us,
b. But sadly, you know that our sinful nature is all too ready to suppose that when we have been given a lot, we must have been given a lot because of our superiority to others...
1) How often the Lord reminds His people not to think this way!
In 1 Cor 4:7, Paul says: For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
In another place, Paul says, "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ.
2) When the Lord was bringing His people into the promised land, He warned them that after they had entered and received the abundance of blessing, they were not to think that it was because they were superior to others... He tells them expressly that they are blessed because of his free promise of grace.
3) This is a major theme of scripture!
We are not blessed because of our goodness, but we are blessed because of God's free grace.
a) Israel was taught this at the Passover:
God did not pass over them when He sent His angel to destroy the first born in Egypt because they were good. In fact, their first born had to die also - the only difference was that God accepted a substitute in the place of their first born - there was still a judicial death required.
God was showing them that He was treating them differently, but not because they deserved to be treated differently.
b) Isn't this is the lesson of the cross?
We are not blessed with heavenly hope because we are deserving of it, we are blessed because Christ took our punishment upon Himself!
c. So we see that when Gabriel is ascribing blessedness to Mary,
He is not declaring to her how wonderful she is,
2. And so it is also with Elizabeth's declaration of Mary's blessedness.
a. When Elizabeth calls Mary blessed among women,
b. In verse 45, Elizabeth does attribute something to Mary, and that something is faith! She says, "blessed is she who believed!"
Mary is blessed, not because she is going to do something great, but because she is receiving something great from God through faith.
3. And then we see what Mary herself says...
When she says that all generations will call her blessed, it is not because she sees herself as superior to others - it is the opposite!
It is because God has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant... He has taken a lowly maiden and has given her the highest privilege that any woman could ever have!
The blessedness is clearly in what God does for her, not what she is in herself! His grace meets her in her lowliness and exalts her!
C. And it is right here that we learn of the great difference between true religion and false religion!
1. True religion looks for God to bless where there is no merit...
2. Those who look at Mary as a source of blessing do so because they carry within themselves the false notion that they can and must work up merit before God.
They find hope in Mary because if she could do it, they should be able to do it in time.
Just as Mary is called blessed because what she has done (or because of what she is), so will they be called blessed because of what they have done (or what they are).
In true religion, Mary is called blessed because of what she has received from God through no merit of her own... She could no more produce this child than Sarah could bring forth Isaac in her old age.
This was something that God was going to do for her. Everyone would call her blessed, as she said, because He who is mighty has done great things for me... NOT "because I have done great things for Him."
3. So what about you?
a. Are you trying to find life - happiness - blessedness on your own?
Are you trying to find it in your achievements or in a special relationship or in your possessions or even in the good things you do for others or for God?
That is the false way to live. That is all rooted in the lie of Satan that "You will be as God." Only God is blessed in Himself.
b. The only way you can be blessed is if God blesses you.
The way of true life - happiness - blessedness is found in looking to God to pour His grace upon you. That is the way of true religion over against false Christianity and every other religion or non-religion in the world!
by Al Sears, MD
I was interested in brain health way before I ever became a doctor. I was always curious about how nutrients affected the brain.
I remember seeing the natural health pioneer Durk Pearson on The Merv Griffin Show talking about the role of three things I had never heard of and could barely pronounce at the time.
He talked about phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylinositol and phosphatidylethanolamine and how they come together in brain chemistry to increase the memory neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
I thought, "Wow, this guy is really on to something." So I went and did some research and started mixing things together and I swear I think it had an immediate effect on my memory.
It convinced me then that these things like vitamins and nutrients are real, and you can feel their effect. I was 15 at the time.
In my practice today, I have found one nutrient that gives me and my patients more of a boost in brain power than anything else I ever used. And most doctors today don't even know about it. It's called acetyl L-carnitine (ALC).
It's an exceptional brain supplement and I've seen how it has restored razor sharp thinking to my patients who take it. Studies show that when you have a deficiency in mitochondria – the engines that supply your energy – and reverse that through supplying the brain with ALC, it rebuilds the brain. 1
When researchers started looking deeper into how ALC worked, they found it stimulates your brain to grow more neurites – the branches that are extensions of your brain cells. These let brain cells communicate with each other. And ALC does this at the same rate as your body's own nerve growth stimulant called "nerve growth factor" (NGF).
Today, we've discovered why... because ALC stimulates NGF itself. It also helps keep the receptors for NGF healthy and vital.
In fact, they now use ALC as a treatment for different types of nerve injury because it completely protects neurons, the brain cells that help you retain information. 4 ALC is the main form, but there's also acetyl carnitine arginate. One study found that ALC arginate protected neurons from the effects of the beta-amyloid plaque found in patients with dementia and Alzheimer's. 5
Some formulas mix both of these, which is an excellent way to get ALC. However, look for a formula that that has only l-carnitine and not D,L-carnitine. D-carnitine is synthetic, and it interferes with the action of natural l-carnitine.
If you're interested in boosting your mental focus, I recommend 250 mg of ALC every day.
You can get some of the same effect by taking liquid l-carnitine, and combining it with a cofactor that will give your brain more energy and help your body create acetyl l-carnitine on its own. I like vitamin B12 for this purpose. You don't need much; only 500mcg to 1mg. And, B12 is also available in liquid form so you can take them together.
1. Kidd PM. "Neurodegeneration from mitochondrial insufficiency: nutrients, stem cells, growth factors, and prospects for brain rebuilding using integrative management." Altern Med Rev. Dec 2005; 10(4):268-93.
2. Westlund KN, Lu Y, Werrbach-Perez K, Hulsebosch CE, Morgan B, et al. "Effects of nerve growth factor and acetyl-L-carnitine arginyl amide on the human neuronal line HCN-1A." Int J Dev Neurosci. Oct 1992; 10(5):361-73.
3. Taglialatela G, Angelucci L, et. al. "Acetyl-L-carnitine enhances the response of PC12 cells to nerve growth factor." Brain Res Dev Brain Res. Apr 1991; 59(2):221-30.
4. Terenghi G, Hart A, Wiberg M. "The nerve injury and the dying neurons: diagnosis and prevention." J Hand Surg Eu. Nov 2011; Vol 36(9):730-4.
5. Scorziello A, Meucci O, Calvani M, Schettini G. "Acetyl-L-carnitine arginine amide prevents beta 25-35-induced neurotoxicity in cerebellar granule cells." Neurochem Res. Mar 1997; 22(3);257-65.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
1/2 pound bacon
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until evenly brown. Drain, cool, and crumble.
To make the dressing, thoroughly blend the vinegar, honey, dry mustard, celery salt, paprika (or chilli powder), and olive oil.
Place lettuce, oranges, green onion, bacon, and almonds in a serving bowl. Toss with dressing and serve. Serves 8.
Source: Chet Day's Health & Beyond Newsletter
Partners in Love and Business Travel Road to Success
Barack and Michelle do it. Brad and Angelina do it. John and Yoko did it. How?
As the divorce rate hovers near an estimated 50 percent in the United States, many blame career stress as a major cause of separations. But somehow some couples grow stronger, especially when they work together.
One couple who have worked together for nearly a decade in the stressful world of theater, producing Off-Broadway plays, has decided to share their secrets.
"In part, it is because we work together that our bond has strengthened after 10 years of marriage," says Jamillah Lamb, co-author along with her husband, David, of Perfect Combination: Seven Key Ingredients to Happily Living & Loving Together (www.acoupleoflambs.com).
The couple has worked together professionally in their stage company, Between The Lines Productions, Inc., for nine years. But the Lambs say even couples who aren't business partners are working together every day; because being in any relationship requires negotiating, compromising, and decision-making. Just think about the last time you had to decide whose mother's house you were going to for Christmas or where you were going to go for vacation or even which movie you were going to see last weekend.
"We get more opportunity to grow together because, between home and work, we're making 100 decisions a day instead of 10," Jamillah says.
The couple live by their guiding rule, "Love like kids, act like adults."
"That means to love freely and completely, without a fortress around your heart, and behave responsibly," David says.
A crucial ingredient for any successful marriage is friendship, the Lambs say. Here are some of their tips:
• Enjoy life: Some couples won't go to theme parks until they have children. But letting one's inner child out to play with their partner's inner child strengthens a relationship's bond.
• Forgive the small stuff: No one is always right, and no one wants to be around someone who always needs to be right.
• Appreciate individuality: Everyone needs to have their own identity, including those in a long-term relationship and couples who work together. David enjoys his comic book collection, while Jamillah keeps a library of romance novels.
• Do not misdirect anger: In psychology, it's called transference; dumping your bad day on someone else. It is poison for any relationship.
• Remember your love: Couples may fight, but guard what you say. There's no need for ugliness even when you disagree.
Couples need to remember relationships take work, but they can also be a blast of fun, David says.
"Love is worth the sacrifice," they agree. "Today, with stories of celebrity couples walking away after only days of marriage and even more people living as though sacrifice is nearly a curse word, we say: ‘It's worth the sacrifice.' For us, it means that we are willing to give up something that we thought was valuable or important for something even more important: love and our happiness."
Love is, in part, the acknowledgement and deep appreciation for another human being, Jamillah says.
"Couples should never take each other for granted," she advises. "In love, as in business, everyone wants to be appreciated. The simplest gesture can go a long way to help your significant other feel like they are making a significant contribution to your life, your family, or your business."
About David & Jamillah Lamb
David and Jamillah Lamb have been married for 10 years. They founded and have run Between The Lines Productions, Inc. since 2003. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., David attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and New York University School of Law. Jamillah Lamb grew up in the same Chicago neighborhood as first lady Michelle Obama. She earned her master's degree in public policy at Harvard. Together they wrote Perfect Combination: Seven Key Ingredients to Happily Living & Loving to share what they have learned as successful partners in love and in business.
A 4th grade teacher collected well-known proverbs. She gave each child in the class the first half of the proverb, and asked them to come up with the rest. Here is what they came up with:
(from The Daily Dilly)
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