Luke 1:46-55 | December 23, 2021
by Ron Crawford
Illiterate commoners shouted, “Magnificat, Magnificat;” thus encouraging the priest to read aloud what we know as Luke 1:46-55, The Song of Mary. This text was a favorite of peasants in the Middle Ages. It was known as Magnificat to the masses because the first word of the passage in the Latin Bible was “Magnificat”—translated, “My soul magnifies.”
The poor and oppressed identified with this text for two reasons. First, the text spoke of an active God, “the Mighty One has done great things…” Key verbs in the poem speak to the work of God: scattered, brought down, lifted up, filled, sent, and helped. During the Middle Ages the poor, politically oppressed and hemmed-in by systemic social systems could not but wonder if God existed. Literally, they could not see where God was helping them. Magnificat helped them water the tiny seed of faith.
The second theme of the text focused sharply on the experience of the underprivileged: “looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant,” “lifted up the lowly,” “filled the hungry.” Apparently, Mary belonged to the lowest social strata of her day. She knew poverty and its companion despair.
Today, we are separated from the historic context of the text by two thousand years and a significant level of disposable income. Even so, Magnificat reminds us that God is active even when we cannot outwardly see God’s work. Magnificat also reminds us that with the help of God we can rise above despair and hopelessness.
Prayer: Gracious God, we give thanks for the help you give us every day of our lives, even when we cannot see it. Help us face our challenges and disappointments believing that you are working through us making the world a better place. Amen.