The Magnificat: Song of Mary-the-Social-Revolutionary
In Christian art, she is usually depicted as a meek maiden and a passive figure. This taming, this domestication of Jesus’ Mother, Miriam (whose name we Anglicize as “Mary”) falsifies her. I think in most of Church History, the bigwigs have been afraid of Mary. Her song of praise (the Magnificat) after the angel’s announcement is almost always sung in Latin–to keep ordinary people from realizing just how revolutionary her words are. Now Mary doubtless sang in Aramaic and we don’t have the Aramaic original. Luke’s Greek text (given below) may have been informed by a Christian community in which Mary was a member or even a leader, but in its present form was clearly modelled on Hannah’s Song (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Mary expects her Son’s birth to lead to a “Great Reversal,” the scattering of the proud, the putting low of the rich and powerful, and the lifting of the poor and filling of the hungry. This is no meek maiden nor anyconservative defender of the status quo: Mary is a prophet of social justice who would be called “Commie” by Fox News and the Religious Right! Bring it on, Sister Mary!
- My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
- he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
- From this day all generations will call me blessed;
- the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
- He has mercy on those who fear him,
- from generation to generation.
- He has shown strength with his arm
- and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
- Casting down the mighty from their thrones
- and lifting up the lowly.
- He has filled the hungry with good things
- and sent the rich away empty.
- He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
- to remember his promise of mercy,
- The promise made to our ancestors,
- to Abraham and his children for ever.