The New Testament gives us two perfect prayers which the Church has taken up and prays every day: one from our Lord, the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father, and one from our Lady, the Magnificat, heard today in the responsorial psalm.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…” The Magnificat is a song of joy, appropriate to Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of joy, but it’s also a song of tenderness and fierceness.
Tenderness for the lowly and the hungry: the tenderness of Isaiah in the first reading for the poor, the brokenhearted, captives and prisoners. This is also the tenderness of our Lord, who quotes this passage from Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth, saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
So there’s tenderness in the Magnificat, but also fierceness toward the rich, toward the mighty on their thrones, toward the proud and arrogant of heart.
The Lord fills the hungry with good things and lifts up the lowly; he brings glad tidings to the poor, heals the brokenhearted, and proclaims liberty and release to captives and prisoners. But he also casts down the mighty from their thrones, sends the rich away empty, and scatters the proud in their arrogance of heart.
Both sides of the Magnificat, the tenderness and the fierceness, are surprising. The fierceness of the Blessed Virgin is surprising to many because of the sentimental picture of “gentle Mary,” “meek and mild,” that so many have from pious images and hymns.
But the tenderness is also surprising in a way. At least it should surprise us if we take a step back and look at the big picture of human history and culture.
Historically, the idea of casting down the mighty from their thrones has always been a popular one. There’s never been any shortage of bad, oppressive leaders and people hating them. But the idea of lifting up the lowly — that idea hasn’t been nearly as popular.
Every social revolution in history has failed, says G.K. Chesterton, because it could only fulfill half of what the Magnificat calls for: Revolutionaries have often managed to cast down the mighty from their thrones, but no revolution has ever lifted up the lowly.
The rich and powerful have often been hated, but they’ve always been important. The poor, hungry, captive, oppressed, and abused have generally been voiceless, invisible, overlooked. Who hears the cry of the poor?
It’s a great homily, and steadfastly resisted, alas, by the most of the combox dwellers at the Register who do everything in their power to make sure the lowly are kept low and excuses made for their domination and suppression every step of the way.
There’s a reason Christianists work so very hard to shout down Pope Francis and exalt Donald Trump as savior. Christians side with the least of these. Christianists side with those who sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.