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Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 Advent Retreat - Session 3

Luke 1:46-55 (from the translation The Message)

And Mary said,
I'm bursting with God-news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Mary, Woman of Promise by Mary Frances Fleischaker
Mary, woman of the promise
Vessel of your people's dreams:
Through your open, willing spirit
Waters of God's goodness streamed.

Mary, song of holy wisdom
Sung before the world began
Faithful to the Word within you
As you bore God's wondrous plan

Mary, morning star of justice;
mirror of the Radiant Light;
In the shadows of life's journey
Be a beacon for our sight.

Mary, model of compassion;
wounded by your offspring's pain:
When our hearts are torn by sorrow,
teach us how to love again.

Mary, woman of the gospel;
humble home for treasured seed:
help us to be true disciples,
bearing fruit in word and deed


I remember the first time I saw a musical. I was maybe 11 or 12, and I went to see the local high school's production of Sound of Music. Everything about it transported me, but the most astonishing part to me (a novice to musicals) was the way in which the characters would, in the middle of mundane speech, be so transported by love or wonder or joy that they just had to burst into song. It was like magic.

In a way, the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth reminds me of some first-century-Palestine Broadway musical. The news Mary has to share is so stupendous, so astonishing, so joyful, that she cant even talk about it, she just has to sing. Whether you love to actually sing or not, perhaps you have felt a time when the love or wonder or joy of God transported you to such depths or such heights that you were beyond words. What did you do in that moment? Sing? Laugh? Dance? Or just sit in quiet ecstasy?

For Further Reflection
-What does your religious tradition have to say about Mary, if anything? How is Mary's journey important to you on your personal spiritual path?

-When we hear it, we know how singing is different from talking - how much more deeply emotions are expressed, how the vocal range rises and falls, how freely and effortlessly the notes seem to fall from a good singer. Is it possible to capture that same feeling from reading words on a page? If not, how else might we experience the Magnificat?

-Mary does not name her Child, or even reveal her pregnancy in the Song. And yet, the hope of Christ's presence is strongly felt in the themes of justice and mercy expressed. What hopes do you have for the coming of the Christ child in this season?

God of all life, fill me so with your good news that I am fairly bursting with it. Help me to sing your song using the words and the tune that you have created just for me. Alleluia!

It's Not About the Virgin Mary Scott Ward
Magnificat by Virginia Wieringa


  1. Oh, Juniper! Yes, I have been moved to song, and a kind of song in my heart, too, when it nearly bursts with joy and love.

    Growing up Baptist, I only knew Mary from the Christmas carols and the Christmas pageant. I think I was a young teenager when I read a novel about Mary and began to consider her as more than a leading role (see Pageant above).

  2. Mary was not prominent in the church of my childhood.....and for many years I held traditional images of her as meek and mild with disdain...Now I embrace her power and strength, her willingness to take that risk of faith....

    I love the image of Mary and Elizabeth bursting into song....reminds of variations Miriam's song I have sung when I have attended Women's seder's....a way of writing into our history the voices of women of faith!

  3. Songbird. I thought your moniker was probably not an accident!

    Mompriest. I never knew much about Mary as a child either. I think the ways in which she was a victim or at risk were emphasized - woman, poor, young, pregnant. All important, but lately I find myself thinking about the ways she claimed her power, too. It's exciting to think of her this way!

  4. I've been praying and pondering throughout the day, but this is my first blog so far... everyone one of these has given us more than enough material for short reflection and bears rereading, rethinking and rewriting throughout this season. Special thanks to our retreat moderators!

  5. thanks for the Scott Ward attribution for the painting Juniper--I just now noticed it.

    PS captcha - "rettert" - almost correct spelling!

  6. In my childhood, poor Mary was kept under wraps for most of the year every bit as much as her Nativity-scene image. I've been cheered to see more people in my tradition beginning to "go back for Mary," and also to recognize her strength and resolve.

  7. My best friend Growing up Susie Keseg taught me to say the rosary. When I'd stay with her we'd say the rosary together. It brought me real focus and peace.
    Holy Mary mother of God...


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