Thanksgiving with Mary … and a Dangerous Memory (A different approach to a post that first appeared on cmeast.org.)
The many layers of our Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving has gone through many changes over the years. For many in the United States Thanksgiving has gone from a much-anticipated family celebration to a dreaded get-together fraught with potential for political strife. Whatever the emotional climate, we have also come a long way from the culinary fare of the Pilgrims thanks to clever marketing by the turkey and cranberry industries. And somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that we were the immigrants to a land inhabited by a people we later confined to “reservations.”
Perhaps the biggest change is the loss of a consciousness of giving thanks to a God who has given us the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We could also reflect on the lack of appreciation of the root meaning of Eucharist, giving thanks for God’s intervention in the Exodus to a Promised Land and, even more significantly, Jesus’ conquering sin and death.
Forgotten truths about Mary’s song of Thanksgiving
The “Magnificat”, Mary’s thanksgiving hymn after the Annunciation, has inspired gifted musicians and countless hours of prayer. But often it is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. We often have lost sight of her beautiful prayers as a prayer of thanksgiving for “God’s revolution.”
In the Magnificat, echoing the Old Testament, Mary thanks God for totally changing the order of things, turning things upside down. God takes that which is on the bottom; and God turns everything upside down, and puts the bottom on top and the top on the bottom. God revolutionizes the way we think, the way we act, and the way we live. If systemic change begins with looking at things in a new way, we can certainly thank our God for inviting us to think in a new way… God’s way.
Before God’s revolution, we human beings were impressed with money, power, status and education. We were impressed with beauty, bucks and brains. But God revolutionizes all of that; God totally changes all of that; God turns it upside down. The poor are put on the top; the rich are put on the bottom. It is a revolution; God’s revolution. The Magnificat clearly tells us of God’s compassion for the poor; and when God’s Spirit gets inside of Christians, we too have a renewed compassion and action for the poor. Our hearts are turned upside down.The Magnificat and God’s Revolution
Her Magnificat is a prelude to the whole gospel, and the theme that God respects the poor, exalts the poor, cares for the poor, feeds the poor, remembers the poor, helps the poor.
Mary’s thanksgiving hymn is a hymn celebrating God’s “systemic change” … and an invitation to live it in our lives.
From thanks to giving
Mary not only gave thanks for this new way of thinking. She intuitively realized she was part of the revolution. She did not just sit in stunned silence at all God did for her. She realized that if this was God’s way of acting, then she intuitively knew she was called to act this way. Immediately after the Annunciation, she hurried up into the hill country to help her cousin. It was literally a step along the road to a changed way of thinking.
In this, she anticipated Jesus words and actions when he washed the feet of his friends he asked, “Do you understand what I have done?” If you do, do the same for all the lowly and marginalized of the world.
Popes have pointed to her as the pre-eminent disciple. It took the disciples some time to realize what Jesus did when he washed their feet. “Do you understand what I have done?:… “Do this in memory of me!” We have spent 2000 years struggling to understand God’s revolution.
So the big question for your life and mine this Thanksgiving is: has God’s revolution occurred in our lives? Have things been turned upside down that our lives now are dedicated to exalting the poor, regarding the poor, feeding the poor, helping the poor, remembering the poor. Has this revolution occurred in your life and mine?
It turned the lives of Vincent and Louise upside down.
Living God’s Revolution
- Do we spend as much time thanking as we do asking?
- Do we move from thanks to giving?
- Is there enough evidence to convict us of being God’s revolutionaries?