After the Magnificat
Based on Luke 1:45-55
My Anglican colleague, Rev. Laura Hermakin, wrote: “The Magnificat, the song of Mary begins so joyfully that its subversive message is often overlooked. We want to rejoice in our Saviour who is merciful, who has done great things for us. We might be less thrilled with one who has “scattered the proud” and “brought down the powerful.” We may be comforted by a Christ who has “filled the hungry with good things,” but we might not want a Saviour who has “sent the rich away empty,” especially those of us who live in wealthy nations.
There were places in Latin America, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Brazil where just a few years ago the public reading of the Magnificat was forbidden as subversive activity, with all that business about the mighty being pulled from their thrones and replaced by the weak and poor. Mary’s definition of liberation sounded suspiciously like revolution. “
Why did she sing that song? What inspired her? When she said to the heavenly messenger, `Let it be, let it be with me according to what you have said,’ did she have any idea what she was getting into? What would she think of us reading it still today, and what of those places where it is forbidden to be read? Let’s listen to what Mary has to say…
Mary sings…“From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a stone will be left on stone. Let the king beware for your justice tears ev’ry tyrant from his throne. The hungry poor will weep no more, for the food they can never earn, there are tables spread every mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn…”
Ah, the Magnificat! All these years – centuries later and you still say and sing these words. A delightful fusion – words by a Jewish girl, now to the tune of a Celtic pub song!
Do you want to know why I wrote that song? I have been struggling with how to tell you. What to tell you…The truth? I wrote it out of sheer girlish naivety. I’m sure that’s not what you wanted to hear, but it’s true.
There comes a time, maybe once in your life, When you have to make a choice – A choice that will change everything. And if you let it slip by, it may never come again.
I come from a long line of choice makers; people who’ve said yes to God, against common sense, against the wisdom of the world. People like Isaiah. You’ve been hearing from Isaiah these past weeks, haven’t you? Poetic visions of peace and harmony, visions of streams in the desert, and a safe highway leading homeward.
Isaiah’s visions are like crocuses breaking through the winter snow. They defy logic. He proclaims a safe passage home, while the Assyrian army stands at the gates of Jerusalem, having plundered every other city in Judah. No wonder they thought he was crazy…But Isaiah’s choice gave the people hope, enough hope to carry on.
700 years later, I too had a choice to make; a choice that defied logic. And so I chose to say yes – Yes to God, and life and mystery. Maybe I was delirious; maybe it was hormonal. I was young and I was invincible!
I felt so powerful. Like I could change the world.
There’s something crazy that happens when you get to carry life, when you get to carry hope growing inside you. The world turns upside down. I would protect this child, shelter it within my body. My womb was a great defence shield against terror, against oppression. What was I thinking!?
Then, oh then when he was born it was finally clear that I could not possibly defend him. Oh, he was so tiny, so vulnerable, I just held him and rocked him and sang to him again. But the song I sang didn’t make into the scriptures. I just sang it for my baby. I called it `After the Magnificat.’
After the Magnificat (Tiny child)
Tiny child, so soft and warm – How calm you are in the eye of the storm.
1. I was so excited with you inside of me but now you’re in a big new world, now you are free. I shall teach you how to walk, hope it will be fun,but now I question in my mind – will you have to run?
2. The world is waging war on every side, everyone wants more and more, they’re never satisfied, we are so in need of hope, we long for liberty, our cry is echoed in the wind, it’s moaning through the trees.
3. I am so frightened. How can I provide a place to grow and live, a place to hide. Is there some secret that I cannot see? Have you some wisdom that you can share with me?
Tiny child, so soft and warm, how calm you are, you `Eye of the Storm.’
Words and music – Juanita Austin – April 1986
As I finished singing, I looked into that wee face, and his eyes were open and filled with galaxies and wonder and deep, deep peace. That look kept my spirit alive, it was a seal on my heart to keep it from breaking, or at least to hold the pieces together when it did break,as old Simeon said it would, that day we brought our baby to the temple.
And despite the centuries that have past, and the storms that continue to rage, the slaughter of the innocent, I see he is still at work. That star- child, that love- child finds a place to be born in hearts that are broken, in the poor who understand their worth in God’s eyes, in those who step away from power to walk as equals with all, in those who understand that war and oppression and military might will not save us.
But be careful. For when this divine seed of hope causes you to have crazy thoughts about turning the world upside down, people will think you are being political and subversive; they wont’ like it.
Best to sing. When you sing, people just think you’re being… religious. Beware, for there really is no defence against the joyous naivety of a young woman and the foolish wisdom of God!