Scripture: Lectionary 199. I Samuel 1:24-28. Rsp. I Samuel 2:1.4-5.6-7.8. Luke 1:46-56
We continue to listen to readings involving women who are pregnant—Elizabeth, Mary, and Hannah. From the first reading we learn how women who desired pregnancy or were surprised by it as in Mary’ situation, they join in thanking God. Hannah says, “For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him; therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he is lent to the Lord.” Mary does this through her powerful and prophetic song the Magnificat which is today’s Gospel. Elizabeth also is thankful to God as we learn later in chapter 2. She presently is enjoying the help of Mary and, in turn, is advising Mary as an older woman.
Our “omniscient author” named Luke was very fond of the Old Testament narratives and used them in framing his own great skill of developing the events in the life of Mary and after his genealogy in the centering almost exclusively on her son Jesus. We discover this in the similarity of the Greek phrases used in his first two chapters and in his familiarity with how to write his narratives in the same genre like a psalm or hymn or an Annunciation-vocation call narrative. He paints portraits and pictures that capture the early life of Jesus and Mary. He works with dyptichs whereby the life of the Baptist and Jesus are mirrored.
These are excellent readings for the last week of Advent when expectations which were great in the person of Hannah, Mary, and Elizabeth come to full fruition in the birth of a baby boy. Wow! It does not get any better than this in the order of stories of grace-filled women.
Luke’ Infancy Gospel is the closest we come to the historical Jesus and they are therefore a primary source for understanding his unique blessed birth of the virgin Mary. Luke had searched out and remembered the passages that helped him narrate the early history of Mary and her son Jesus. Only Luke will do this for the conception, birth, and entrance into young manhood by Jesus. Chapter one and two of Luke are perfect subjects for our last meditations before the feast of Christmas.
We may ask did Luke know Mary personally and thus remembered her words and telling? Or did he, after searching the stories that surrounded the early years of Jesus as well as the witnesses who were still alive when he began writing his Gospel? We have some insight into these questions but not answers as we reread his first lines of the Gospel—the first and only such periodic sentence in the Bible!(Luke 1:1-4). He writes that prologue as an assurance for his patron Theophilus ( Beloved of God) and for his Christian readers who knew his Greek language. We may be hearing the living voice of Mary and of Jesus as we ponder over these primary sources and traditions behind them. After all, the Scriptures are divinely inspired and no one knew the earliest facts and stories that surrounded Jesus from years one through twelve than Luke, the “beloved physician and artist.
Our own faith inspired reading should accept the omniscient author as we do in other biographies and novels that we read. We often enter into them in a more alert and excited manner than we do into the greatest story ever told.
Advent in its fourth week shows us the Virgin Mother’s role in the history of salvation. Is it any wonder that she would sing out her song of love and praise and prophesy. We can enter into her spirit and hear her living voice in the greatest of Evening Hymns, the Magnificat. We do so with the context of Hannah’s story and her own song to God. Amen.
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