For that fair blessed mother-maid,
Whose flesh redeem’d us, that she-cherubin,
Which unlock’d paradise, and made
One claim for innocence, and disseizèd sin,
Whose womb was a strange heaven, for there
God clothed Himself, and grew,
Our zealous thanks we pour. As her deeds were
Our helps, so are her prayers; nor can she sue
In vain, who hath such titles unto you.
Our gospel passage this morning begins with Mary making her way to Elizabeth’s house. The Angel Gabriel had just visited St. Mary. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary is told that she will be the Mother of God. And with this acclamation given to her, she “went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah.”
Mary comes to the Prophet Elizabeth’s house. I call her a prophet because as soon as Mary enters her home she is filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth is given knowledge, divine inspired knowledge, that could not come from any human agency. She cried out loudly in joy and exultation that Mary is to be the mother of the Lord. And so Elizabeth bows in Mary’s presence, crying out:
Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?
The older honors the younger. And the older, the prophet, is the first to call Mary Blessed.
Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord
The Magnificat is Mary’s response to this. And this morning I want to look at the magnificat to answer a question “Why do we look to Mary?”
Mary’s magnificat can be divided into three sections. The first section is Mary’s cry of praise and adoration to God for his favor to her and and all people.
My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
Surely, 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 is on those who fear him in every generation
My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. Mary’s act of worship is her act of obedience, her act of acceptance of her own unique vocation. It is an act of praise for God’s great mercies. And this act is also an expression of her joy and wonder at the fact that God has chosen her. Mary then expands this to everyone, His mercy is on those who fear him in every generation. The same God that has chosen me, the same God that is coming into the world, has chosen every generation.
The second part of the magnificat sets out the values of the kingdom of God. It answers the question “Why Mary?”
He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.
The first become last, and the last become first. It is not the headwaiter that knew where the wine had come from, it was the servants. It is the Samaritan woman at the well that spreads the gospel to Samaria. And it is a unimportant woman from Nazareth that becomes the mother of God
The Final section of the magnificat is concerning God’s promises being fulfilled.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants for ever.
God has chosen Mary, and through her the savior will come. In this God is merciful, God remembers his promises to Israel. God redeems his people in choosing Mary.
So, Why do we look to Mary?
The Magnificat is a proclamation of Mary’s obedience and it is a proclamation Mary’s Joy. It is also a proclamation of the values of the kingdom of God. And finally it is a proclamation that God is faithful to his promises.
We look to Mary because of the Magnificat, because the message of the magnificat is Mary’s message.
To look to Mary is to see God’s original plan for humanity. In her we see the obedience we are called to. Mary shows us how to respond to God’s redemptive action in our lives. Mary shows us that the proper response to being chosen is obedience and joy. Mary, thus reveals to us the personal quality of God’s love as well as the personal quality of a faithful human response.
To look to Mary is to see how God redeems humanity. He does so through a lowly woman from Nazareth. It is through humanity that God redeems humanity. He takes on this flesh of sinful humanity to fulfill his promise to Israel.
To look to Mary is to see, without a shadow of a doubt that God is faithful to his people, that because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his lovingkindness never fails.
Thus, the closer we come to Mary the better we see the splendor of God’s redeemed humanity and the beauty of redeemed life. God chose to take flesh in the woman who had found favor in God’s eyes and had responded to that favor with a full “yes.” This response was not only an initial agreement but a lifelong obedience to God’s redemptive presence. There is no other human being in whom we can see so fully what it means to receive the love of God who loves us so much that he sent his own Son.
Most importantly of all, we look to Mary because Mary constantly keeps before us that most intimate relationship with her son. Her complete obedience, radical humility, and unwavering faithfulness show us what a life of following Jesus truly can be. It is impossible to encounter Mary without immediately being led to Jesus. In her, faith finds its purest expression. She is the woman of faith, who always points away from herself to her Son, the source of our redemption.