Thought for the week 6th July – Hail Mary, full of grace, prophet for our age?

Thought for the week 5th July; Hail Mary, full of grace, prophet for our age?

Billingsley and Highley churches are dedicated to St Mary, the mother of Jesus. And in a corner of Billingsley, there is a statue of her. Like most statues, it shows a demure young woman, probably full of grace but also meek and obedient, her head bowed.

I’m not sure whether the real Mary would recognise herself in that statue. She certainly was obedient to the will of God, but the 50ish widow who stood at the foot of the cross was probably a tough and determined woman. She could not be ignored by the early church; St Luke may well have spoken to her when he was collecting material for his Gospel. At any rate, her voice speaks throughout his work, but most especially in the hymn of praise that for centuries have been known as the Magnificat. It tells of Mary’s response to the message of the Angel, that she would be the mother of Jesus, God’s anointed one. But the words are not those of sweet, demure teenager; think instead Greta Thunberg. Mary speaks as a prophet, proclaiming the God will bring about a radical transformation of society. There are many musical settings of the Magnificat, but a particular striking one is “The Canticle of the Turning”, written by Rory Cooney in 1990.

My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great,

And my spirit sings of the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait.

You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight, and my weakness you did not spurn,

So from east to west shall my name be blest.  Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn.

Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn!

 

Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me.

And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.

Your very name puts the proud to shame, and those who would for you yearn,

You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.

 

From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears every tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn;

These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn.

 

Though the nations rage from age to age, we remember who holds us fast:

God’s mercy must deliver us from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.

This saving word that our forbears heard is the promise that holds us bound,

‘Til the spear and rod be crushed by God, who is turning the world around.

My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn.

Wipe away all tears, For the dawn draws near, And the world is about to turn.

 

It is set to the Irish folk tune, “Star of the County Down” and there are a number of recording available on the internet; for example at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9QeTmRCpW4

Covid has reminded all society of the values of God’s Kingdom; the appreciation shown to key workers, the coming together of communities. Many who have joined in this have no faith and yet the Holy Spirit can work in all. As we emerge into our new, post-Covid world, is the world truly about to turn according to Mary’s vision?

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