Written by Kathy Kuczka
This year, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary falls on Sunday. At the heart of Sunday’s Gospel reading is the Magnificat, the song which, according to the gospel of Luke (1:44-55), Mary sang to her cousin Elizabeth:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
The Magnificat echoes the song of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, (found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10). Hannah, who is barren, cries out to God in utter despair for the gift of a child. God answers her prayer and in return, she offers God a prayer of thanksgiving. Both the song of Hannah and the Magnificat celebrate the immense goodness of God. The Magnificat casts a look backwards to the mercy of God throughout salvation history: the arrogant have been cast down, the lowly have been lifted high, and the barren have become pregnant with new life. The word mercy as it is used in the Magnificat is translated from a Hebrew word meaning motherly longings. Though generations have forgotten their covenant with God, God refuses to forget God’s yearning for humanity. To magnify the Lord, in Mary’s words, gives us a hint that God, who had remained largely hidden from sight, now wished to become visible to humankind by taking flesh in the person of Jesus. God’s desire for intimacy with humankind is possible because of Mary’s willing cooperation. May we, like Mary, cooperate with God’s will and may we, with Mary, be united with God for all time.