Mary’s song of praise, which has gone down in church history as the ‘Magnificat’, is a beautiful expression of her gratitude to God and her joy and amazement that God should have chosen somebody as unimportant as herself. Her heart is so full that it brims over into praise and thanks, when she meets her cousin Elizabeth who has been blessed by God with a pregnancy in her old age – a child who would become John the Baptist.
Mary realises that God isn’t too impressed with the stuff that society so often regards as important – power, prestige, possessions. So she says God has
‘scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.’
This was considered so subversive at one time by the Argentine government, that they banned it from public recitation at protest marches! But how true it is, as one looks at the Arab Spring.
Rohr says that our desire for possessions and/or power and prestige are ‘the attitudes that numb the heart, allow us to make very egocentric judgements, and dull our general spiritual perception.’
The church has not been good at remembering this, over the centuries, and we are reaping now what we’ve sown. There have been times in our history – and still today, sometimes – when power and prestige have had far too much influence in church decisions. I remember talking to a cathedral canon once, and asking why the spiritual understanding of a certain issue was being ignored. ‘That’s not how it works,’ he said.
I felt downhearted. For goodness’ sake. If our church leaders aren’t able to keep their eye on the spiritual ball, the future looks pretty bleak. Spiritual perception becomes numb if we live our lives ignoring and neglecting God’s values.
It is fundamental to remember that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. His values haven’t changed … and maybe we would do well to get back to them.
Right on, Mary.