Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke
Mary, Mother of Our Lord
August 16, 2010 (transferred from August 15)
Psalm 34:1-9 (3)
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son, you made known your gracious regard for the poor, the lowly, and the despised. Grant us grace to receive your word in humility, and so to be made one with your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. Greetings, O favored one! The | Lord is with you.
The Holy Spirit will | come upon you. Alleluia. (Luke 1:28, 35)
1a. CONTEXT - Luke 1:46-55
The Magnificat is surely one of the best known passages of
scripture--so familiar, in fact, that preaching on this text poses the
consummate challenge to the pastor who would take scripture seriously,
on its own terms. It is more than a canticle of praise; it is a text which
has posed a consummate dilemma for centuries of faithful women - and if
we are to be faithful to our task, we need to find fresh ways of looking at
what this text has to say. While building on the Song of Hannah (1 Sam.
2:28-32) in both form and content, this text has been identified with other
canticles which Luke has probably taken over from an earlier tradition, the
Benedictus (1:67-79), and the Nunc Dimitis (2:28-32).
It resembles as well, a number of hymns from the Psalms, especially
33, 47, 48, 113, 117, 135, and 136. Fitzmeyer (ANCHOR BIBLE
COMMENTARY, p. 359) argues that the hymn is probably non-Lucan --
especially since it fits so loosely into the context of Luke 1-2. Yet the
text as it stands points to important new dimensions in Luke's theology.
Heralding the reversal of the present order --salvation will come to the
most despised, most oppressed, most disenfranchised; in sum--the most
LOWLY--as represented by Mary herself. Reuther (SEXISM AND GOD-TALK p.
152ff.), in fact, sees the Magnificat as the "key text for the Lucan
identification of Mary with the Church, the New Israel."
Viewed in the context of the infancy narratives ofLuke 1-2, Mary's
song is set in striking contrast to both Hannah's song, on which it depends,
and Elizabeth's comments, which it follows. There are marked
similarities in Hannah's and Elizabeth's plight: both are old, both are
barren, both are dependent on well-churched men.
Elizabeth is even descended from the Aaronic priesthood! Yet as
Hannah's son Samuel annoints the Mighty One's choice of Jesse's smallest
son, David, as king (cf 1 Sam. 16:6-13), so Elizabeth's son John wil
announce the Holy One's choice of the lowly unwed Mary's son Jesus--as
Messiah. Something very new has clearly happened in Israel!
1b. TEXT - Luke 1:46-55
Mary's Song of Praise: The Magnificat
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
46Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον, 47καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, 48ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί: 49ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 50καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν. 51Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν: 52καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς, 53πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς. 54ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, 55καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London
Luke 1:46 - my soul magnifies the lord and my spirit rejoices in God my
Savior--It may be desirable to translate "megalynei" as magnify for
familiarity's sake, although JB and Fitzmeyer in the ANCHOR BIBLE use
"declares/proclaims the greatness of...," especially in response to
Elizabeth's previous blessing of Mary (1:42, 45). The emphasis here is
more properly placed on Mary's expression of faith in God, correcting
Elizabeth's focus of blessing on Mary. Hence "my soul magnifies...my spirit
1:48 - tapeinosis--can be translated "humiliation, low estate (KJV, RSV),
or lowliness. It is the same word used by Hannah in 1 Sam. 1:1, usually
translated "affliction." Here it is set in ironic contrast to Hannah's
affliction; Mary's humiliation, her low estate results from being unwed
and pregnant, not married and barren. That set of circumstances renders
their singing the same song all the more powerful.
apo tou nyn - from now on - used often in Luke to denote the new age
of salvation - signals the important changes which are about to take
place- as does the use of "all generations" - shifting the emphasis found in
this phrase in Gen 30:13 spoken by Leah re: her pregnancy "all women will
count me blessed." Luke calls our attention to the inclusivity of the new
age - and hints at larger issues than pregnancy.
1:52b - "he has exalted the lowly" - since tapeinous is used here as in v.
48, it would be best to be consistent in translation whichever form is
used; humiliation, lowly, low estate, etc.
The challenge here is to preach the fullness of the message, and not
diminish that message by magnifying the pregnancy. Mary's faith in God's
plan for her stands over against both Hannah's and Elizabeth's focus on
their own well-being. To focus on the pregnancy is to miss a point worth
considerable rejoicing. God's transforming power in our lives transcends
our experience of either blessing or curse - both of which can be attendant
to child-bearing. This text calls for what Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza
has named a pastoral-theological paradigm of biblical interpretaion.
(BREAD NOT STONE, p. 32ff).
In an era when most women have been searching for a Word that regards
their personhood as well as their motherhood, Mary's rejoicing in God's
regard for her and her faith is indeed Bread for the journey. It helps all of
us who would be true to the new Israel do something new with a passage
usually taken for granted, literally or otherwise.
Other suggestions...Psalm 8 has an interesting ring if one
substitutes "what is woman that thou art mindful of her" in v.4. Or begin
the Lucan passage at v. 39, rather than v. 44 to tie in the contrast to
Elizabeth - and quote Wordsworth on leaping as rejoicing: "my heart leaps
up when I behold / a rainbow in the sky / so was it when my life began / so
is it now I am a man / so be it when i shall grow old / or let me die.
Craddock, F., Hayes, J., Holladay, C., Tucker, G. PREACHING THE NEW
COMMON LECTIONARY, YEAR C ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, EPIPHANY. Nashville:
Abingdon Press, 1985.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE I-IX, the ANCHOR
BIBLE. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981.
Reuther, Rosemary Radford. SEXISM AND GOD TALK: TOWARD A FEMINIST
THEOLOGY. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1983.
Schüssler-Fiorenza, Elizabeth. BREAD NOT STONE: THE CHALLENGE OF
FEMINIST BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1984.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS (see above also)
Most important for this day of worship are hymns and selections of praise and joy. Since the date is the middle of summer, it might be
refreshing to use music more often identified with Advent, and would
offset the change in emphasis in the text for the day.
If the soloist isn't vacationing , REJOICE GREATLY from Handel's MESSIAH would fit beautifully, as would Bach's JESU, JOY OF MAN'S REJOICING(cf. ELW 501 and HB 336) , using OUR for MAN'S, to catch the congregation's attention!
THE GOD OF ABRAHAM PRAISE (LBW 544, HB 401) ties in nicely with the reference to the Old Testament stories, while bringing to our attention the central theme of praise.
Exegete: Emily Chandler, RN, DMin., PhD. (Claremont) , CS, is Professor of Spirituality Research and Mental Health at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston.