August 15 has been observed since early times as the day of what the Eastern church calls the "falling
asleep," of Mary, Mother of our Lord. Thus, in may Christian traditions August 15 is celebrated as one of
the feast days of the church year calendar.
A Biblical text that long has been associated with this day is Mary's Song of Praise, the Magnificat:
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is is name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with this 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 away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever."
This song is, of course a song that comes from the birth of Jesus. But, lest we forget, that birth was the
birth of one who came to be crucified. And the song that Mary sings, giving the expression to her great joy
and hope, is a song that is sung in a world filled with crucifixions and with great sorrow. The very content
of her song, sung with a jubilance as if her hope were already fulfilled, bears witness to the awful
circumstances she hopes will be overcome by God himself. This song of hope, filled with the ancient hopes
of the people of God: Is it only a pathetic sign in a world where hopes are denied?
Mary's song is filled with all the biblical faith. Her song brings to expression the very shape of biblical faith
itself: The faith that God is the one who brings creation out of nothing, life out of death, promise out of
dead ends; that God is the great one of whom the whole Scripture sings; the his is the power to bring cosmic
reversal and also to reverse even the fortunes of the littlest and lowly of the earth.
Mary sings, and all the messages of the Bible are gathered here in her song, the song that rejoices and
waits in God who acts. Mary sings for all hoping humanity, for all the longing earth, for all those who
indeed hope for the kind of fulfillment in which she already rejoices.
But where is the fulfillment which she speaks of as if it were already taking place? The injustice seems to
continue. The proud and the powerful are full and on their thrones yet. And the lowly, the hungry
continue to be yet lower, yet hungrier.
But the full meaning of Mary's song is found most clearly in her son. For among the lowly ones of the
earth, among the crucified ones, among those whose very life and death cries out for the justice of God in a
cry seemingly yet unfulfilled, is Jesus. And the deepest meaning of the gospel is that God has made this
lowly one \, this crucified one, the very source of life itself. This lowly one has been exalted. This hungry
one has been so filled with good things that from his fullness we may all receive. And God's mercy is so full
on this one, this Jesus, that it is a mercy that pours out to all humanity.
No, Mary's song is not simply a pathetic sign of hope against hope, but her song is the truth. It is the
biblical faith brought to simple and clear expression. It is the word of God which we may trust. For the word
which she sings comes most clearly to sight and to human experience in the word which she bears in Jesus
her son, who is God exalting the lowly and filling the hungry with good things.
Mary indeed is blessed. And we call her so, both because she speaks and sings the truth and because she
bears that very truth of God for the world. God's mercy is for those who fear him. And we pray that he may,
in fact, make us hungrier, empty us and put us down from our mighty thrones, that we might join his poor in
waiting for his sure salvation, waiting together with his son.
Rev. John Kjoller is pastor of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Ridgefield