In this Gospel passage (Luke 18: 18-27) Jesus is sympathizing with a rich ruler; How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God. Then who can be saved? The answer is there in verses 17; Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. What is that spiritual truth that we need to learn from children? What is the secret that help them to take possession of the Kingdom of God? Call to your mind your childhood face or your child’s face. Or you may go to a place where you can spend some time with children. Just observe them, when they are in the playground or in church’s nursery. Recall the children you know- their concerns, questions, stories, realities, attitudes about themselves, their family and life. Think about this question: what would it mean to receive the Kingdom of God like a child? What would it mean for you to embrace the childlike faith within you?
It has been a recent practice in the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Churches to observe eight-days-lent interceding prayers of St. Mary, starting from day one to eight day of September. It is quite appropriate to think and meditate St. Mary especially during the time of “ETTUNOYAMBU”. Whenever we think and talk about St. Mary certain cliches and typical images come into our mind.
Some of the common thoughts and topics of discussion during this festival and lent season are; St. Mary is the mother of God; not the mother of Christ; she’s a saint, she is blessed, she is full of grace, and she is highly favored; she’s virgin, despite she gave birth to a son; she is very humble; and she is from a very poor family; she accepted God’s will without questioning; she said she is God’s servant, and she’s a great believer; she suffered with her son; she is glorified by God and praised by the church; and moreover, she’s an intercessor.
Well I don’t have to debate on any of these aspects because we have been discussing this for many years. But I’m trying to explore the relevance of a frequently ignored prophetic dimension of St. Mary. This dimension is well portrayed in St. Luke 1: 46-56 which is the longest text attributed to a woman in the New Testament and the song of praise that the Orthodox folks recite every Sunday during the Resurrection / Kymtha Morning Prayer. This is popularly known as the “Mavoorbo”, “Mariyaminte Pattu”, the song of St. Mary, or “Magnificat”.
And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
We all know this beautiful song of praise; but have we ever meditated on the content of Magnificat? A mindful reading of this prayer will help us to see two parts in Magnificat. The first part is a hymn of thanksgiving. The second part clearly shows Mary as a prophet of God’s justice. It reflects a bold revolutionary proclamation of God’s justice for the poor and meek. It is a revolutionary song of salvation that proclaims the coming of the kingdom of God. Finally, it proclaims the social change that liberates the people.
In short, by singing this song St. Mary is demanding something from us. But it is our choice whether we want to sing this song with St. Mary in today’s world. While observing this lent, St. Mary is asking us whether it is possible for us to mediate Magnifcat with her today?
- Can we try to read and meditate St. Luke 1: 46-56 every day morning and evening for the next six or seven days.
- Can we think about (write down) at least five blessings we experienced in our life? And today is a good day to express our gratitude to God and to others.
- Can we try to identify a word or idea from this song, especially the one that capture our attention? If you can, then stay with that idea; recall it in your mind during the day, even when you are at work or at school. God may be talking to you in that idea.
- Can we enter into the attitude of St. Mary; Take a few moments to let someone know you love him or her or you care for somebody.
- Can we enter into Mary’s disposition, as she speaks on behalf of all of the people who are oppressed, poor, meek and less fortune?
- Can we stand with Mary in solidarity with those who lack power; and speak up for the weaker members of the society?
- Finally, can we intercede with St. Mary to strengthen us in our Christian life to be selfless; and to protect us from the dangers and threats around us?
Again the choice is ours. Are we ready to take up the challenge of a prophetic Christian life? Or like most of the ‘Christians’ we also do want to simplify St. Mary as a mediator/ intercessor of wealth, prosperity and blessings!
May God bless!