2. An upside down God
A little later, once she’s met with her elderly cousin Elizabeth, herself also amazingly pregnant, Mary’s trusting response finds eloquent expression in a song known to us as the Magnificat, after its first word in Latin, and found in Luke 1.46-56:
My soul glorifies the LordMary knows her Bible. Her song is saturated with references and echoes from the Hebrew Scriptures. From these stories, she has learnt that in choosing a nobody to pursue his plans, God is doing what he’s always done.
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants for ever,
even as he said to our fathers.
God chose Abraham, a nomadic herder, a nobody, to begin a family based on a grand promise. As our first reading reminded us, God chose the children of Israel, a racial underclass helping build the riches of the mighty Egyptians, an enslaved mob of nobodies, to witness the humiliating defeat of the prime and pride of Pharaoh’s army. God chose Rahab, a foreign prostitute, a nobody, to protect Joshua’s men in a hostile city. God chose Ehud, a left-handed freak, to perform a crafty clandestine operation to rescue his oppressed people. God chose David, an unknown shepherd boy, a nobody, to defeat the champion of the Philistine army and establish a Israelite dynasty in Jerusalem. God chose Esther, a young orphaned Jewish girl in a strange land, a nobody, to stand up to an emperor and foil a genocidal plot.
Mary knew these stories and more. She realised that in choosing a nobody like her to work his upside plans, God was doing what he’d always done. And so she praises his upside down wisdom, which raises the humble and thwarts the proud and lofty.
Twelve points for naming the building whose ceiling is pictured here.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII.