One big question – possibly an unexpected one – for us, as we’re studying Luke 1:46-55, is simply this: what do we think Mary is talking about? [There are a few options, including: having been chosen to be the mother of the “Son of the Most High;” the impending birth of this child; the consequences of that birth – and those might be described in more than one way; we might think of additional possibilities.]
In other words: what do we think Mary is praising God for? And then, what difference does it make what we think here? That is, how does what we think she is praising God for color the way we understand this text? When we pay some attention to that, what do we see?
This seems like a basic question, but one that we often skip over.
Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple of additional questions we might want to reflect on, or possibly discuss with others:
If we do a “close reading” – that is, if we go through the text phrase by phrase, and say what we think the text is saying, in our own words – what do we come up with? How does our reading compare to others’ – where is it the same, where is it different? What do we learn from that pattern of similarities and differences?
Are there any specific phrases that capture our attention, or that we wonder about? [For instance, this year I’m particularly curious about “scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” … ??] What seems to be going on there?
Suppose we take Mary’s song as a model for praise – say, for our own praise. What do we learn from it about how to praise God? About when to praise God? About what to praise God for? What makes us say all that?
[More personal] Have we ever praised God this way ourselves? When was that? What would inspire us to praise God this way ourselves, do we think?
[Even more personal] Do we need to do anything about this, do we think? What leads us to want to praise God more? What holds us back from that?
We might notice that all Mary’s statements are in the past tense – that is, from the perspective of her speech, everything has already happened. Thoughts? Feelings? What difference does this make, do we think?
[More personal] What does this mean for us, and our relationship to God’s activity, do we think?
Overall, we may want to consider our sense of Mary’s uniqueness, on one hand, and our sense that Mary is a model for and typical of the faithful, on the other. When we think of Mary praising God here, do we see her praise as something only Mary can give, because she is so special? Or do we see it as a model for praise all the faithful can raise, because she is one of us? Something for us to think about as we prepare to celebrate her son’s birth.
Image: “Conversation,” Camille Pissaro, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.