Summary: As we look at Mary - do we see her Magnificat as our song as well
Concordia Lutheran Church
The Fourth Week of Advent, December 20, 2009
Our Souls Magnify the Lord
† IN JESUS NAME †
For you, there is God’s grace, mercy and peace, as we await the return of His Son, our Savior!
The Mary Dilemma
In today’s gospel, we see a young Mary, sent to serve her cousin Elizabeth in the midst of her pregnancy. Yet Mary is pregnant as well, a fact that Elizabeth realizes and proclaims with great joy!
Indeed, Elizabeth will proclaim and prophesy, that of all women, good things should be said of Mary. Two words in this passage are translated as blessed in this passage, and the one Elizabeth uses is related to the word eulogy – good words.
Some would take this phrase, and turn the word “blessed” into some kind of adoration. Others would decry that as near blasphemy, noting that only God deserves that kind of praise. Over time, in some churches Mary has taken on almost a god-like stature, and in others she is all but ignored – nothing more than a tool to be used in the plan of God.
Instead of plunging into either ditch, we look at Mary, and realize the miracle that she was part of – bringing to reality the promise of our Savior. Martin Chemnitz, perhaps the brightest theologian in Lutheran history, wrote this,
“Are Then the Saints of God Not to Be Honored at All?
They are indeed to be honored, but both in the way in which God has prescribed and they themselves want to be honored—just as the blessed Virgin Mary says in her song: From henceforth they shall now call me blessed, not because I can do great things and as though my name were holy, but because the Lord has done great things for me; He is mighty and only His name is holy [Lk 1:48–49]. On the basis of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession the position of Scripture on honoring the saints comes down to these three chief parts:
First, that we praise God by true thanksgiving with regard to the saints; He has adorned them with such various and excellent gifts (Gl 1:24; Mt 5:14, 16). And at the same time let us magnify those gifts and praise the saints themselves, who used those gifts faithfully, just as Christ commended the faithful servant (Mt 25:21; 11:11).
Second, that we might strengthen our faith and draw patience, comfort, and hope from their doctrine, confession, cross, affliction, constancy, relief from the cross, and deliverance. (Ro 15:4).
Third, that, everyone according to his calling, we might imitate their faith, hope, love, and the other Christian virtues (Heb 13:7; 1 Co 11:1). And this is the true honor, this the true veneration of the saints. ”
And that is what Elizabeth’s words do in this passage, as well as these words of Mary, which have been called the “Magnificat”, and have been chanted and sung through the centuries. The word magnificat is found in older translations, a way of saying “proclaims the greatness”.
The magnificat is not about the young lady, but it is her song of praise to a God who can be trusted, whose promises are but an extension of His faithful love.
Therefore, we too can magnify, we can proclaim the greatness of our God.
Blessed is the one who trusts
Mary and Abraham’s descendants
As Elizabeth proceeds to greet Mary, she cries the words that form something called the Ave Maria - a statement later added to, and mistakenly turned into a prayer. “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” But what is often overlooked is the reason that Elizabeth calls Mary blessed, which is found in verse 45,
Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.
Mary trusted in God’s promise – in a time where one would question where that promise would lead. During the pregnancy, the knowing whispers, the rumours that would circulate. Even at Christ’s dedication at the temple, prophesies about the heartache of being the mother of the savior would at once gladden, yet cause great fear – for the price of her son, saving the people of God, saving the world would indeed be high.
In this, Chemnitz would claim we could imitate the trust she places in God. That if Mary can endure the challenges of her life, and the ridicule and stigma, then we can too trust in God to sustain
Blessed is the one who trusts in the promise
A question – which is great the trust someone has, or what they trust in? Which is great, the faith, or the faithfulness?
Obviously, the object of the trust, the faithfulness. For if the trust/faith is misplaced, and that which you have faith in lets you down, your faith/trust is meaningless. So it is with Mary, or any saint. It isn’t their faith that is remarkable, but the one they have faith in. The greater the challenge, yes the greater the faith needed, but so must be greater the promise of that in which you trust.