The Magnificat, Mary’s revolutionary song, is an option this Sunday and the next: Advent would not be complete without its defiant joy and radical hope.

This being a winter like no other, I thought I would do something different with this year’s Advent Magnificat. The variation offered below is designed to be sung to Hubert Hasting Parry’s magnificent Jerusalem, with apologies to the composer; although perhaps he would be sympathetic to the reassignment. Parry, after all, succumbed to the pandemic Spanish influenza in 1918, and he and his executors assigned the copyright of Jerusalem first to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, then to the Women’s Institutes, before it passed into the public domain in 1968.

Mary sings of God in the third person, and the combination of voices attempts to evoke the joining of our hymn of praise to God with Mary’s song about her very particular encounter with the Holy Spirit. The use of feminine third-person pronouns for the Divine is a quite deliberate choice. However, it would be possible to render the whole as a second-person address to God, if local circumstances compelled it.

A Magnificat

My God! My spirit sings your praise,
my soul sings out your holy Name!
My lowliness was your delight,
your blessings far beyond compare.
My spirit sings how mighty is
the Author of all life and love;
my God, my spirit sings your praise;
my soul sings out your holy Name.

Her mercy is on her children,
and her children’s children, whom
her strong arm tenders and protects;
the humble and the lowly, too.
Her wisdom undoes arrogance,
the thrones of power are dust underfoot.
My God, my spirit sings your praise;
my soul sings out your holy Name.

She feeds the hungry with good things,
sends the rich empty away.
She lifts the downcast from their grief;
she keeps the promises she’s made.
She forgets not her Israel
nor Abraham from age to age.
My God my spirit sings your praise;
my soul sings out your holy Name.

Mary’s song can be found in Luke 1:46-55.

Updated January 2022. In the original version of this Magnificat, I had trouble fitting the original covenant promises into the meter of the final verse. I used the example of the hymn I was using this to replace as justification and excuse for leaving them out, but it never sat right with me. This was as it should be. Mary, a Jewish woman, sang of God’s promises to Abraham, God’s covenant with Israel. To omit her devotion to her heritage was a grievous error, which I hope hereby to have rectified at least somewhat, at least belatedly, and with apologies.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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1 Response to Magnificat

  1. Pingback: Complicity with God | over the water

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