What I’m Thinking: Song Passed Down

The “Magnificat” (Mary’s Song) is a Scripture that moves for many reasons. It turns out it is also a demonstration of the value of spiritual community.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the first chapter of Luke, specifically Mary’s Song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46b-55). This is an incredibly rich Biblical text. Mary looks ahead towards a very very new and different community, one reshaped in its values and in its expressions of power by the grace and intervention of God.

But this text also looks back. Mary was certainly inspired by the message of an angel. She was certainly inspired by the testimony of her cousin Elizabeth affirming the blessedness of her pregnancy. But Mary also looked further back than that. She looked back to the Scriptural traditions of Israel. In the Magnificat you can hear echoes of many of the celebration Psalms. In the Magnificat you hear especially an echo of Hannah’s Song in First Samuel, her thanksgiving when she discovered that she would at last be able to bear a child into her family.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen with spiritual, religious, community. Communities remember things. Communities preserver things. Communities pass things on. Hannah’s Song could have been lost centuries before. It could have been never written down at all – and certainly plenty of amazing songs in praise of God were lost over those centuries.

But this one was preserved and it became a resource for Mary. It became an inspiration for Mary. It became a literary guidepost for Mary as she framed her own song of exaltation, joy, and promise.

In these days, religious community is sometimes dismissed, frequently discounted. What, after all, is the value of people gathering together for some time during the week? What does that accomplish?

One of the things it accomplishes is: when somebody has a profound spiritual experience, they have some background to help them understand it, to help them to embrace it, to help them to pass it on.

Because Mary had that, she was able to sing the Magnificat. Because Mary had that and other people have Mary’s words, we are also able to sing the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on December 7, 2020

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