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Thought for the Week: Magnificat

This week at Whitley Bay High School we have been leading assemblies on the theme of Advent. We have been particularly looking at the themes of waiting for transformation; lifting up the lowly, and bringing down the mighty. This is what Isaiah longed for, and this is what was promised in the coming of the Messiah.

On the fourth Sunday of Advent we consider the Annunciation, and Mary's "yes" to God. Pregnant with Jesus, she sings a song of joy to her cousin Elizabeth:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

This canticle—or song—is so important to our faith that it is said daily at Evening Prayer. Each line offers us a window into the transforming power of the incarnation expressed through the voice of a “lowly servant”. It presents us with a vision of a world turned upside down; the proud scattered; the mighty cast down; the rich sent away with nothing; the hungry filled with good things; the lowly lifted up; promises fulfilled.

I wonder if you had to choose one line from the Magnificat to be your motto, one phrase which summed up your faith, which would it be?

St Mary’s Church, dedicated to the mother of Jesus, displays one verse on its glass screen. This is the first thing people see when they enter our beautiful church. It reads:

The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.

Taken out of context this one phrase says little of a world upturned; on its own this verse has potential to be understood as describing a God of benefit for the few. As a church with St Mary as our patron, let us make sure that we live the whole of the Magnificat as fully as possible, with spirits rejoicing that in God the low are lifted up; with souls proclaiming the greatness of the Lord made visible in the scattering of the proud. These are the great things that the Almighty does for us.

Rev'd Benjamin Jarvis


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