Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Blessed Virgin

"Behold, from henceforth all generations
shall call me blessed;
for he who is mighty hath done for me great things,
and holy is his name!" - Luke 1:48-49

Mary's song (traditionally known as "the Magnificat") is rich with ideas and theological points. Surely, among the reasons the Father chose Mary and Joseph to raise Jesus was their extreme piety and close walks with the Lord. If it is the writer/editor of the Gospel of Luke who is primarily responsible for this wonderful song, then kudos to him (either way, it is the Holy Spirit who is ultimately responsible for the contents of Scripture).

In verses 48-49 of Luke 1, two things strike me, particularly as I prayerfully prepare to preach on this pericope (Sunday 9:30 AM).

First, being "blessed" by the Lord may not always be a "walk in the park". Elizabeth said to Mary in verse 42, "Blessed art thou among women...", and in this passage, Mary affirms the blessing. Think of it: Mary was probably 12 or 13 years old, single, poor, pregnant though not married, and living in a culture where this sort of thing meant at least ostracism, and possibly worse. This blessing could have turned into the end of any hopes she had of living a relatively normal life as a productive member of society. Blessings are not always what they seem.

The second thing that strikes me is that Mary is blessed not because she is pregnant, but because she is being used by the Holy Spirit to help accomplish God's plan. Though it's unlikely Mary understood all that was to happen in the future - what exactly her child would do and how he would liberate Israel - she walked in faith (a wondrously frightening thing to do) and chose to not only accept her role in God's plan, but to praise God for the blessing of being a part of the salvation story.

Mary stands as a shining example of a faithfully-lived life; she lived in humble obedience to God, and truly embodies (for me) John Wesley's covenant prayer...

"I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt,
rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing,
put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee
or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee
or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things,
let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen. "

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