"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Responding to the Call, and Believing What We Pray in the Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
     for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will called me blessed:
     the Almighty has done great things for me,
     and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him 
     in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, 
     he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
     and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
     and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
     for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
     to Abraham and his children for ever.

I am currently reading On Being a Priest Today, by Rosalind Brown and Christopher Cocksworth.  In Chapter 3, "On Being for God", the authors begin by referencing the call of Moses, "the father of ministry by grace through faith."  When confronted with the call of God in the Burning Bush,
Moses' response was archetypal, echoed throughout the generations of calls to ministry: 'Who am I that I should go?' (Exodus 3:12).  God's reply to Moses is equally foundational and remains the word to all who have been called: 'I will be with you; and this shall be a sign for you that is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain' (Exodus 3:12).  Moses' response is a statement of his own weakness.  God's response is a promise of his presence -- a promise that will be known to be true only in its believing, only in obeying the call, only in the doing of ministry.
The authors point out that it is Moses' very recognition of his own unworthiness that validates the call of God on his life.  It is true that Moses, in himself, is not fit to fulfill such a high and holy calling; no one is.  It is when an individual realizes this, however, that he or she is fit to be used as an instrument of God, through which He will accomplish great and wondrous things.  If Moses is the father of ministry by grace through faith, the Church may justly look to Mary as the Mother of all who say 'yes' to God.  Brown and Cocksworth continue:
Moses' song exalts the Lord as the true God who is able to accomplish the unexpected.  It is the same key in which Hannah, Mary, and other biblical characters sang.  'There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you,' sings Hannah, no one 'raises up the poor from the dust' and makes the 'barren bear seven children' (I Samuel 2:2).  Mary's soul, too, 'proclaims the greatness of the Lord' who has 'looked with favor on his lowly servant' (Luke 1:46-48).  The Daily Office invites us to sing these familiar words of the Magnificat each evening as we gather the day before God in prayer.  The day may have felt very unproductive.  The powerful forces of the world may have seemed secure on their thrones and we, feeble against them.  But the theological truth in the strange kenotic workings of God is that even on this day, when our ministry has seemed at its most barren, God has done great things for us and through us, simply because, with Mary, our faith has said 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord' (Luke 1:38).  
Be encouraged, for my Father and your Father is working until now, and Jesus has overcome the world!

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