Text: Luke 1: 46- 55
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”
“From the Silence of Chaos God breathed the Music of Creation”. When we look at Mary’s life we know that the proclamation of Gabriel plunged her life into utter silence of chaos. Her calculations in life had gone topsy turvy. Dreams shattered and confusions multiplied. But in the midst of all this she surrendered herself to the Mystery of God by saying “I am the Lord’s Servant. May everything you have said about to me come true.” This opening up to the possibilities of God transforms her Silence of Chaos to Music of Creation. In such a background let us explore two dimensions of the beautiful song of Mary.
The initial part of the song “Harks about Amazing Grace of God”. “For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.” (Luke 1: 47-49). Mary aware of the responsibility that she has been called to, is also aware of her inadequacy in being an instrument for God. Being profoundly aware of God’s grace prepares us to be open to the possibilities of God. In a conversation with my fellow batch mate and Asst. Vicar of St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Karol Bagh, Rev Jijo Varghese narrated to me a fascinating story. Alex Haley is the Author of the colossal work “Roots” which traces 12 generation of his slaves ancestors that were traded from Africa to America in the 15th century. Journalists interviewed him at his office. They dealt with the pain of being Black and the success of the Book “Roots”. In the office one of the Journalist saw many photos gracing the walls of his office. But there was one odd photo frame that stood out. Journalist out of curiosity asked “Dear Alex I can understand the family photos and the photos of your personal glory but the one photo where a turtle on top of a fence post beats me. What is the significance of this photo?” Haley poignantly replied “ In times of such personal glory where my book is doing so well this photo reminds me of a profound truth. This turtle definitely has not climbed on the fence post, there is somebody who has placed it up there. When I look book this photo reminds me that it is not by merit that I have reached here. The grace of God, prayers of my family and encouragement of people have placed me here. This gives me perspective.” Like Mary let us be aware of our humble state from which God has lifted and placed us to do His will. God has placed us not in a position of privilege but in a place of responsibility to be his instrument, to be his witness.
The second half of the song is a “Melody of a new dream, a new vision, a new beginning.” From vs 51 Mary Sings of a New future. This song portrays that God has already brought down rulers from the throne and lifted up the humble as a thing of the past. We should remember when she sang this song Herod was still on the throne. Threat of Herod later drives her as a refugee to Egypt along with Joseph and baby Jesus. So here she was singing in faith of a new future and a new possibility where the humble will be lifted up while the Herods of the world will be dethroned. She sings of a time when the hungry will be filled and the rich sent away empty handed. Mary lived in the context of Roman imperialism where the power is all that mattered. There were many like her who were hungry, who were just statistics in the Roman Census. With all the negativity surrounding, she saw a vision of new beginnings, new possibilities and new hopes. Today we live in times of Breaking News that has numbed our senses. News of scandals, riots, sexual abuses, scams and wars have made it impossible to believe that we can make a difference. The brutality of mankind has today deprived us of any hope. Slowly we have started to believe that “Nothing is going to Change. There is no hope.” We seem to have given up. In such a context let me introduce you to the Third blessing of the Mar Thoma Liturgy.” MAY THE GRACE AND MERCY OF THE HOLY AND GLORIOUS TRINITY, + UNCREATED, SELF-EXISTENT, + ETERNAL, ADORABLE AND ONE IN ESSENCE, BE WITH YOU ALL + FOR EVER.” Rev Eappen Varghese, the Professor of Church History at Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam says that the “ Glorious, Holy, Uncreated, Self Existent, Eternal, Adorable, One in Essence quality of the Trinity is contrasted with the World that is Unholy, Created, Dependent and Fragile.” So the Third Blessing points to the beyond element that helps us to rise over the negativity, cynicism and pessimism that surrounds our times. The Third Blessing is a Blessing and a responsibility to dream of a new future. When the world says there is no hope, we are called to be the messengers of hope. This dream may look baseless and illogical. But one needs the madness to believe in God and the future that he holds. Can there be a world where there will be no war? A Nuclear Free world? A world free from human trafficking? A world free of discrimination, prejudices and stereotypes? A world where there will be no caste discrimination? World free of Gender discrimination? World that embraces the disabled, the deviants and the marginalized?
If the above is foolishness I am a follower of a fool who was the Son of the Woman who sang the Song. He in his foolishness preached in his sermon like this:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5: 3-12)
On the Occasion of 15 Days Lent where we remember the life and dedication of Mary, Mother of Jesus, let us too “Hark about the Amazing Grace of God” and hum the “Melody of a New Dream, a New Vision, a New Beginning”. Mary calls us to be foolish enough to believe that the grace of God is sufficient for us to dream, to have a vision. In my First year in seminary I remember meeting an incredible person called Dayabai.I was mermerised by her attire and her gait that was in complete identification with the tribal people that she works with. Her front tooth is broken and her face is wrinkled. Interacting with her we found out that her name was Mercy Mathew and her house is in Pala. She dedicated her life to be a Nun and she became one. Later she realized that she was a misfit and left that path. She took up studies in Social Work and was challenged beyond comparison.After imbibing knowledge from universities, Mercy travelled to Madhya Pradesh to become a part of the adivasis there. Initially it was pretty difficult for her to gel with them. For that Dayabai turned herself into a Goondur local. She changed her dressing style, her eating habits, her language; she even worked on every small detail like the way she walks, talks, sits, stands etc.
The day that changed Mercy to Dayabai was when she saw a nine-year-old boy killing a chick. She spoke to this boy for a long time inquiring why he did the brutal act, what affected him so much? Apparently, this boy witnessed the brutal death of his mother and sisters. He hid behind a basket and did all he could to stay silent. His silence resulted in the death of his family. Mercy realised that he was simply the tip of an iceberg.
The same day, she saw an advertisement for volunteers to Calcutta to help refugees from Bangladesh. She didn’t think twice before venturing out to do just what her heart told her to. There she took care of people with small pox, chicken pox, dengue and even more contagious diseases.
Dayabai, from then on, worked for Goondur and till date, has been fighting for them. She lives alone but with nature and a dog and a cat to keep her company. She cultivates oranges, blue berries, papaya, spinach, gram, peas, and almost all types of vegetables possible. She breeds hen, horses and cows in her very own land. The words that had the deepest impact on me were her words “Every time i partake in the Eucharist, I am reminded of the broken body and blood shed by my Jesus. This inspires me to be his disciple and to be ready for any sacrifice for the fight for justice and rights of his people.” Like Mary, Dayabai too is foolish enough to think that in midst of all the chaos and mayhem of the world by the grace and empowering of God, we too can dispel the forces of darkness. May this lent help us introspect our life of discipleship and may we be foolish enough to believe that the existing reality of the present world is not the final truth. There is hope and we need to strive for the world that is filled with justice, mercy and peace that our Lord preached and announced its arrival by calling it the ‘Kingdom of God.’
Rev Merin Mathew
Mar Thoma Syrian Church