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Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 21, 2017

Dec. 22: Third Friday of Advent

Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk 1:46).

Decades ago, after successfully completing interviews that would propel me to the final round of a scholarship competition, I floated into the car for the long drive home and immediately popped the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s “Messiah” into the cassette player (my younger readers may not be familiar with such an antiquated technology). Alone on the highway, I blasted Handel’s glorious anthem at full volume, finding in its majestic energy a perfect outlet for the joy and gratitude I felt.

At moments when we are moved beyond where language can reach, many of us turn to song—as Mary does today. Lifted up by the generous embrace of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary begins to recognize the magnitude of what God has done in her and for her. In joyfully acknowledging the blessings of God’s mercy, she signals her intention to carry them forward, to cooperate fully with God in fulfilling his plan. Mary is not, as she has sometimes been depicted, an archetype of passivity; rather, she models receptivity to God’s message as she proclaims the new world that he is bringing about. Having freely given her body to God to bear His son, she now offers Him her soul and spirit, in Greek her psyche and pneuma. With her Magnificat, she becomes God’s creative instrument—strong, joyful and possessed of the courage to bear his Word into the world.

In human song, the body and soul that the Greeks saw fit to separate are united (in Hebrew, there is no such distinction). Singing Christ into the world takes everything we’ve got—the spirit of God channeled through the human body. Hallelujah!

Prayer: Lord, Animate my spirit with joy, so that I may sing a new song with all my heart and all my soul. , and embrace your life-giving invitation. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

To listen to Bach’s Magnificat, click here.

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