Fourth Wednesday of Advent (Year B)

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1 Samuel 2:1-10 | Luke 1:46b-55 | Mark 11:1-11

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Advent Meditation by Cathy Minuse

The Magnificat

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
  for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
  for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
  he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree;
  he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
  as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.

One January years ago I spent a week in Canterbury, England. I had just left one job and was about to start another upon my return to the United States. I went to the cathedral several times each day. At Evensong, the cathedral was in semi-darkness, except for the choir stalls, and the building was cold. The small congregation sat on one side of the choir stalls and the choir sat on the other. They always sang the Magnificat. Although as a lifelong Episcopalian I was familiar with the Magnificat, I had never fully focused on it until then. It had never so strongly touched me. The verse which hit me most forcefully was “he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” You see, I have the attention span of an overactive five year old. It helps me to multi-task (which many seem to think is a virtue) but it hinders deep concentration. Scattered was and often is an apt description of the state of my mind. But to be scattered in the heart’s imagination is to be truly fragmented.

Now as I studied the Song of Mary I thought about the girl who sang it after learning that she was to give birth to Jesus, the Son of God. Her kinswoman Elizabeth has just called her blessed. This time I was struck by the counter-reality statements. In what world have the hungry been filled with good things and the rich sent away empty? Where have the mighty been toppled from their thrones and those of low degree exalted? What on earth is she talking about? I imagine she is saying that if God can pick her, a young nobody, to bear and raise his son, then the world is turned upside down. The hungry are fed and the rich go without. The lowly rise and the powerful lose their places of honor. The proud experience doubt and uncertainty. A new world is being born. God’s rules are not earthly rules. Praise be to God. And to his only begotten Son.

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