Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child in your womb! And why am I so blessed that the mother of my God visits me? As soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed Mary, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!”
And Mary sang,
“My soul magnifies the Eternal One, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for God has looked on my lowliness with favor. What God has done for me will never be forgotten; the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. Mercy and love flows from the Eternal One in wave after wave on those who are in awe from generation to generation. God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds; scattering the proud in mind and heart. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. In remembrance of divine mercy, the Eternal One helps the people of Israel according to the promises made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Mary was a human being. She was one of us—just like you and me. She, too, had been wounded. She, too, had scars. Father Richard Rohr says, "If God can choose someone as ordinary as Mary to bear the divine into the world, we better be ready to be surprised."
Mary was ordinary—like us.
Did you know that we can’t quite settle the meaning of the name, Mary? The English name, Mary—like the Greek name, Maria, or the French name, Marie—finds its origins in the Hebrew name Miryam. Miryam—that was the name of the mother of the Christ—a name passed down to her “from generation to generation,” a name first found in the deserts of the Exodus, the name of the sister of Moses. The transliterative journey of the name Miryam creates a bit of a mystery. There are those who attribute the name Miryam to an ancient Egyptian word meaning “beloved.” And there are those who attribute the name Miryam to an ancient Hebraic word meaning “bitter” and “rebellious.” So which is it? Is Mary—beloved, or bitter and rebellious? What if the answer is both? What if Mary is both beloved and bitter and rebellious? What if she is the wrestling tension between all of it? Beloved and bitter. I can relate to that. I certainly have bitterness and rebellion raging within me. But there's also a song buried in my bones that reminds me I am beloved. And perhaps, that is precisely the point. Perhaps we are supposed to relate to Mary. Perhaps her bitter and beloved name is an invitation. Perhaps this ordinary songwriter—scandalously and surprisingly pregnant—rejoicing over the coming birth of the Christ is a declaration that the Christ can be born amidst the ordinary, scandalous, and surprising circumstances of our lives too. You know, there are four other names in this story: Elizabeth, Zechariah, John, and Jesus. The story takes place in the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The name Zechariah comes from the Hebraic word for “remember” and the name Elizabeth comes from the Hebraic name Elisheva, which means “My God is an Oath.” So, to be clear, this story begins with Mary entering the house of “Remember” and “My God is an Oath.” Once there, the two sons—in utero—have their encounter. John—or Yohanan in Hebrew—means “graced by God.” Jesus—or Yeshua in Hebrew—means “to rescue and deliver.” Friends, even before Mary voices the first word of her Magnificat, this story is overwhelmed with Involuntary Musical Imagery. Every word of this story is already singing...
Remember that you are not alone—you dwell in the home of the God of Oaths—a God that keeps promises.
Remember that no matter how surprising or scandalous your circumstances may seem, you are graced by God.
Remember this God comes to rescue and deliver.
Zechariah, Elisheva, Yohanan, Yeshua.
Friends, these names are not an accident or an afterthought. They're not small historical details. These names sing out to all who follow after. These names—like the ancient and rooted music of Mary’s bitter and beloved Magnificat—are an invitation to take up the song.
Sometimes we choose the music and sometimes the music seems to choose us.
Toward the end of Musicophilia, Dr. Oliver Sacks writes, “It is clear that music can kickstart a damaged or inhibited motor system into action again.” Maybe, after all is said and done, that’s why Mary sings. Maybe Mary sings to kickstart or animate those who cannot otherwise move because she knew what it was like to be paralyzed by fear and regret. Maybe Mary sings to give words to those who cannot otherwise speak—because she recognized what it was like to be voiceless. Maybe Mary sings to calm and organize those who are deeply disoriented—because she too, experienced anxiety, confusion, and chaos. Or maybe Mary just couldn’t help herself. Maybe she was overwhelmed. Maybe there was a song buried deep inside her bones—a song so magnificent, she didn’t even have to hear it anymore—she just knew it. There are songs like that. Songs that remember—permeating the depths of our hearts and minds—granting access to emotions that could not otherwise be expressed. Songs that name, validate, and honor the suffering and isolation of the bitter and beloved. Songs of solace—that hold the oaths and promises of consolation, healing, and hope. Songs that remind us we’re not alone—we never have been. Songs that carry the assurance of our deliverance and the calling to actively participate in the rescue of others. Have you chosen your song? Okay, start singing.
“And this time, don’t stop.”
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