The Magnificat. Line illustration of Mary with curly hair holding her fist up, wearing a plaid dress and cross necklace holding baby Jesus in a dress. Both people have halos around their heads. Background: rose line drawing patterns on beige.
The Magnificatby Lourdes Bernard

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…

Luke 1:26-30 NRSV

What I know of Mary, at this time, was that she was young (like, 7th grader in middle school kind of young). She was also Jewish, which meant she was a slave to Rome and (let’s be real) to her soon-to-be husband, too. Her life and its value were determined by the society around her, and back then it wasn’t worth much…if anything at all.

And then, Gabriel shows up at her door.

GABRIEL: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

MARY: (with a raised eyebrow) “Ummm…. EXCUSE ME?! I think you got the wrong house, Friend.”

This is how I imagine Mary’s response would have been, if the Bible was written by a sarcastic Filipina. 🙂 Gabriel walks in unassuming, excited even, and probably expecting a similar response to the good news he was bringing to poor, unsuspecting Mary.

But instead, she was “perplexed” and “pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” I mean, who wouldn’t?

FAVORED one? The Lord is with ME?

I’m sorry…I think you’re talking to the wrong person. You can’t mean me.

In many ways, I can relate to Mary. I’m a woman and a Filipina who has spent most of her life feeling dismissed, ignored, and treated as less by others. I’m not used to having space at the table, let alone trying to make space for myself, without succumbing to the “imposter syndrome” that threatens to silence whatever voice I seem to find. I’m not sure who is always for me, let alone if they’re even with me – as an ally, an advocate, a co-conspirator, or a deeply invested confidant.

So, here’s Gabriel coming with news that will literally change the world. And he’s coming to Mary. Someone who doesn’t sit at the table; she serves it. She didn’t have any choice or say in anything.

Or did she?

Maybe Gabriel figured out that his opening might have been a little too strong. So, after Mary’s silent pondering, Gabriel tried a different approach and said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…” Favor can be defined as, “approval, support, or liking for someone or something.” God approved of Mary. God supported Mary. God liked Mary.

God. Chose. Mary.

But, would Mary choose God? Would she believe all that Gabriel had said – that she (a virgin) would bear a son named Jesus who would be called the Son of the Most High and that His kingdom would never end? Could she believe that God was really choosing to save the world and be Immanuel (God with us), through HER? Maybe it was the last thing that Gabriel said that sealed the deal for her: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (v37) Because after he said this, Mary responded, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (v38)

I don’t think Mary was just resolved to accept the fate that was bestowed upon her by God. She didn’t have to open her arms and say, “Here am I.” And honestly, if God is really omnipotent or if God really didn’t give a shit about her (because, hello – lowly status), why bother making an announcement? Why not just say, “Boom – there it is!” and just make her pregnant? Why tell her the plans of what this baby would become? Why remind her that her once barren relative, Elizabeth, was already six months pregnant?

Why? Because God cared about Mary. God SAW Mary. God saw Mary in ways that the people around her couldn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t see her. And God saw more of Mary than Mary saw in herself.

Nothing is impossible with God. A seat at the table? A table that you host and invite people to? Voices that are heard, no matter what the vessel looks like that carries it? A community of like-minded folks who labor, laugh, cry and celebrate together?

Nothing, my friend, is impossible with God.

Reflections

  1. Do you think Mary could have said no? If so, how do you think God would have responded? 
  2. Where and how in your life can you relate to Mary?
  3. Later, in Luke 2:46-55, Mary delivers a ‘song of praise.’ I invite you to read the passage, knowing the gender language of God has intentionally been altered. Then, think about Mary. Does her narrative seem to change for you, if God is seen as She?

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for she has looked with favor on the lowliness of her servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is her name.
Her mercy is for those who fear her
    from generation to generation.
She has shown strength with her arm;
    she has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
she has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
She has helped her servant Israel,
    in remembrance of her mercy,
according to the promise she made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

  • Rose (she/her/s) is a 40-something, Filipina who has accepted it is a lifelong process to deconstruct and decolonize both her faith and her identity. She is finally finding rest in God, after being unchurched for the last 3 years, and enjoys listening to her favorite podcast, "Levar Burton Reads", while she cooks. Her favorite moment of the day is early morning, when her 11 & 16 year old kids come into the bed to snuggle with Mom and Dad, before they all start their day. It reminds her, on the daily, how deeply loved and blessed she is.

  • Lourdes is a Dominican-American Artist raised in Brooklyn. A graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture and The New York Studio School. Exhibitions include: El Museo del Barrio, PS1 contemporary Art Center, Boston College, The Wilmer Jennings Gallery, NYPL, 5 Myles Gallery. She is the 2019 recipient of the Maurice Sendak/Glynn Narrative Illustration Fellowship at Yaddo and The Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship in Taos, NM. Her current project Women of April (https://www.nyfa.org/ArtistDirectory/ShowProject/1f4c8fe8-a8ed-40f1-a6c8-25184b5cc7f6) will be exhibited at CUNY’s Dominican Studies Institute at City College, in April 2020 and is being sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts.