And Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
For this season of Advent, I want to spend time reflecting on Mary’s song of praise, that spontaneous utterance she gave upon being greeted and blessed by her cousin Elizabeth as she arrived at Elizabeth’s home.
While her song is appropriate material for reflection at any time, I am especially aware of its significance currently, as hateful words and actions seem to be more prevalent, accepted and even encouraged in our country than I can remember in my lifetime.
Today, I reflect on Mary’s chosenness, on her worth as a woman, her status as the mother of Jesus. Mary is a strong prophetic voice, a person of strong faith. Her song of praise echoes that of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and the voices of prophets all through Israel’s history, who knew that the weak, the poor and the least are those whom God lifts up and holds in high esteem.
It disturbs and angers me when women are treated as objects rather than as children of God and worthy of respect and equality of opportunity. I have heard first hand disparaging remarks about the capability of women. Being told “you’re pretty smart for a girl” is not a compliment. Calling women bossy for being in leadership roles, criticizing their appearance, and labelling them as “shrill” when they recognize and speak against discrimination does not recognize the worth and dignity of women. Strong women have changed the course of history but have seldom been highly regarded in their own time. Contemporaries did not esteem their gifts because they came in a female package.
Mary, as well as her cousin Elizabeth, and a host of other women, remind me that we would not have Christianity and the Church today if not for women. And yet, the Church has had a checkered history in its treatment of women that, sadly, continues even now. Isn’t it appropriate as we prepare for the coming of Christ, to remember that God chose a strong young woman to be the one who would not only give birth to Jesus but who could be trusted with his life until adulthood? A woman whose trust in God enabled her to risk ostracism and judgment to become who God called her to become?