Holy Mary, the revolution is here!
Our sweet Mother, the rebel
The celebration of the assumption of Our Lady into heaven is a national holiday in Belgium. It is a perfect moment to reflect on a strange family secret. It is a secret that has been hiding in plain sight: the secret of Mary, our Mother, Mother of the Church. As things go with family secrets, we hardly talk about them. Yet, most of us know honouring Mary is not optional to our faith. So, we say our prayers and light our candles. But, I wonder, have we opted into the whole Mary?
The Dormition of Our Lady, a medieval fresco in the Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame, Strasbourg. Notice that the priest is standing by the bless the body. (Picture RS)
My point is this. Whenever I listen to a Marian song or visit a Marian shrine, the texts are sweeter than honey. The Marian statues are colourful (lots of blue and rose) and very much loved. People find real consolation, hope, and sometimes healing when praying to our Lady and with Our Lady. And yet, as much as I find my healing there, I am also missing something. This is not the whole story. That same feeling hits me when I listen to sermons on Mary. It seems that, somehow, Mary has been silenced.
What do I mean? What worries me here is that we hardly ever talk about the revolutionary text Mary sang, which we just heard in the gospel. I admit, if, like us Dominicans, you pray vespers every day, then you are very familiar with the text of the Magnificat. But honestly, we hardly reflect on who said it and what it says. I am not talking about the first lines, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour". We are all happy and comfortable with that. But what about:
He has shown the power of his arm; he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things and the rich sent empty away...
This is not just a sweat consolation. This is revolution. And that is what is happening in the Magnificat. Mary is singing about the revolution of Mercy that her Son Jesus, God's son, will bring to the world. With Jesus Christ, everything changes, and everything has to change, including ourselves. Pride, power, and social injustice will have to go. And that is cause for great joy to our Lady.
So what has happened to the call to action by our Mother, the revolutionary? Have we locked up Our Lady in a gilded cage of sweet sentiment? Mary asks for more than roses and sweet songs. Mary calls you and me to action, to change ourselves and the world, to work for justice out of love for her son because the Kingdom of God is at hand.
And yet, I am not unaware of the bitter irony here. It's all words. Words, words, words. In my broken existence, I struggle to put them into action. All I am left with is to whisper quiet at night, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...
And she will.