Magnificat (On My Own)

Magnificat (On My Own) December 8, 2021

I make a point of committing to doing the final project along with students when I teach the Bible and Music. Sometimes I write a completely new song, other times I use an existing tune and create new words that paraphrase the biblical text. The text known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) took on new significance to me as I worked on my book What Jesus Learned from Women, seeing even more clearly how Mary’s words are later reflected in Jesus’ – not only in his teaching as found in the version of the beatitudes in Luke, but also in his submission to what he understood to be God’s will, and thus I have Mary in the lyrics express that in words that echo those of the Lord’s Prayer in the Gospel of Matthew (“Your will be done”). I considered at one point having Mary commit explicitly to teaching her son to do the same, but thought that was lacking in subtlety.

Here’s a recording, not very polished but just to give a sense of how the song should sound. I hope I can persuade a strong female vocalist to make a recording of it at some point, assuming anyone thinks that worth doing of course. The lyrics follow after the video.

Magnificat (to the melody of “On My Own” from Les Miserables)

Intro (optional, not included in this recording, just as this part isn’t always included when “On My Own” is sung as a solo)

How strange a man, and stranger still
The kind of greeting that he gave me
He seemed to know me, said that I am
Full of grace and highly favored
He told me not to fear
What I’m about to hear

He told me I will bear a son
The heir of David and his throne
He’ll rule his people in a kingdom
Like the world has never known
And now my Spirit sings
For God can do all things…

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in my Savior
For God has beheld his humble servant
Now every generation for all time will call me bless-ed

With his arm, God shows his awesome power
For the proud, this means their hopes are shattered
And the rulers on thrones now find they’re scattered
While the humble and the meek are lifted up and are exalted

Behold the handmaid of the Lord
Let it be to me according to your word
And I pray, oh let God’s will be done
Let it be, let this be for me

God has filled the bellies of the hungry
While the rich he has sent away empty
God remembers his chosen people Israel
His promises to Abraham will stand forever more

Amen, Amen, Amen – I magnify the Lord

Adaptation from the Gospel of Luke by James F. McGrath

Also related to Mary and/or the Magnificat: Christian Century asked us to imagine a new political economy with Miriam of Nazareth, and also shared some Protestant thoughts on the “Hail Mary.” Diana Butler Bass has been blogging through her advent calendar and Mary is the focus of one such post.

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