And Mary said, “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 his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his 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 forever.”
The miracle happened in Mary’s body. The ancient Creed of the Apostles rings out, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” The Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, the Son of God, in Mary’s womb. The miracle also happened in Mary’s soul. We see it in today’s text:
“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.”
Whatever our soul magnifies, our spirit reacts and responds to. God crafted the human soul for the purpose of magnifying himself alone. Only as my soul magnifies the Lord does my spirit truly rejoice. Everything else we might call “rejoicing” is ephemeral happiness riding on the rising tide of favorable circumstances. This is perhaps the hardest lesson in life. It’s what leads us to chase whatever we think will make us happy. Our spirit is ever in search of something to quench its thirst, to make it soar, to find its song, restless until we learn to rejoice in God our Savior. This only happens as our soul learns to magnify the Lord. It requires an awakening. Our spirit is in search of the deepest, most holy, most beautiful attachment imaginable; the relationship for which we were made and through which all other relationships can flourish.
It’s why during the holidays more people drink more alcohol than ever. Awakening feels too threatening. It means facing the brokenness in our present, which stems from the brokenness in our past. It is easier to numb our spirit with some other spirit (i.e., alcohol) in an effort to cover over whatever it is the broken glass of our soul has chosen to magnify. It’s why people have more extramarital affairs during the holidays. In our quiet desperation we will settle for a thousand unholy attachments, all of them promising a life none of them can deliver.
When my soul magnifies the Lord, it reveals the holiest of all attachments, and it opens the way for holiness (which is true happiness) in all of our attachments—to our own selves, our families, our friends, even our enemies. It’s why at the core of our faith stands a singular command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). These are the movements of a soul who is learning to magnify the Lord. Broken attachments are mended. Unholy attachments are cast off. As my soul magnifies the Lord, my wounded spirit is delivered from every bondage, healed, and set free to rejoice.
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Thank you for this hard but beautiful teaching. Show me what my soul is magnifying. Gently awaken me to the broken places in the magnifying glass of my soul. Something about these holidays has a way of bringing the pain to the surface. Transform them into holy days where I resist my impulse to cover it over and instead become vulnerable before you, the lover of my soul. Come, Holy Spirit, and train my soul to magnify the Lord, and teach my spirit to rejoice in God my Savior. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
How is today’s text and reflection speaking to you? Do you sense awakening near? Don’t be afraid. Lean in.
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