This afternoon, I found myself alone in a quiet house. The my husband stole away to the health club for a much needed hiatus from his care-giving. I had completed all of the one-armed tasks at hand and looked forward to engaging in an activity of choice. Though I had set aside a favorite Christmas movie for just such an opportunity, I decided to enjoy the quiet from the couch across from our Christmas Tree. After drinking in the lights, treasured ornaments and the crèche in the village beneath the tree, I opted to add music to this restful and therapeutic setting.
I left the comfort of the couch to find my son’s old boom box and my Christmas CD collection. I intended to begin with Mannheim Steamroller, but became distracted by the radio which came on when I plugged in the unit. What surprised me and delighted me further were the words of The Magnificat which filled the living room. I could not believe my good fortune as this musical rendition of Mary’s prayer ranks very high on my list of favorite hymns. I smiled broadly as I returned to the comfort of my couch where I sang every word with the radio’s invisible choir.
The Magnificat has been a favorite hymn since fifth grade. I sang in the elementary school choir at Presentation Parish, and we performed Mary’s prayer in Latin whenever Sister Mary Angelista could justify inserting a Marian Hymn at Mass. I took Mary’s words to heart as I imagined her filled with joy, unable to contain her love for the God who blessed her with the baby in her womb. I pictured Mary as she appears on many of our Christmas cards. So much at peace, she needed only to bow her head in prayer and wait for the birth of God’s Son. The Father would see to everything, and so I believed it was…
As I sang on, I reflected on the truths this life has taught me. These lessons convince me that things were not as easy for Mary as my childhood musings suggest. The poor girl was a mere teenager when asked to endure a pregnancy out of wedlock. Her devout parents raised Mary to be chaste and faithful to the Law. How would they deal with this news? Mary was betrothed to Joseph, a good and just man. How would she explain this turn of events to him? Mary must have known that the politics of her day made life difficult at best for the Jewish people. Would talk of God’s Son add to their troubles? Did Mary even consider the threat to her own safety? A woman caught in adultery drew the rage of the righteous, usually ending with her being stoned to death. Yet the scriptures tell us that Mary responded to the angel’s message with, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” As I contemplated what might have moved Mary to this selfless level of grace, The Magnificat resounded in my ears. The truth is that Mary’s words took my breath away as I absorbed their meaning. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Indeed, it does.
When the song ended, I turned off the radio for a few minutes to contemplate Mary’s choices and the mindset with which she faced what lay ahead. When Mary embarked upon that treacherous journey, she did so with a measure of the peace our Christmas cards suggest. Though her worldly lot would be uncomfortable at best, her spirit rested comfortably in the presence of the Lord. Mary endured because she trusted in God’s faithfulness to her. I recalled the peace I enjoyed as a child when I knew my Lord was with me as well. Unfortunately, over time, the troubles of this life dulled my awareness of God’s presence. Over time, I attended more to what was wrong around me than to what was right. I have to admit that there have been moments during my recovery when this phenomenon has repeated itself. Still, when I place myself in God’s presence once again, my journey becomes do-able once again.
It seems to me that our own perspectives and our awareness of God’s intimate proximity to us make all of the difference in the world. Mary thrived amidst the lifetime of challenges which began that first Christmas because she realized that never once did she walk alone. The Magnificat echoes Mary’s realization of God’s promise to you and me. We, too, amble along in God’s company every step of the way.
©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved