“My soul is alive with thoughts of God”: An adaptation of Mary’s Magnificat, by the Rev. M Barclay

Bandele, George_Virgin Mary
George Bandele (Nigerian, 1910–1995), Virgin Mary, 1960s, wood and pigment. Collection of the SMA African Art Museum, Tenafly, New Jersey. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

With the feast of the Visitation coming up on May 31, I’ve been thinking about the song Mary sings in Luke 1:46–55 upon meeting up with her cousin Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea following their miraculous conceptions. It’s bold, exultant, and worshipful, oriented around the liberative power of God. As we continue to reel from the string of mass shootings in the US (Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, was the 212th this year alone), I wonder how Mary’s song might speak to us in this moment—how we, too, might exclaim it with her same fervor and hope, truly believing that God is at work in the world, bringing about justice and healing, even though it is injustice and hurt that so often sound the loudest.

Here is a modern interpretation of the Magnificat by the Rev. M Barclay, cofounder and director of enfleshed, an organization that creates prayers, liturgies, art, meditations, teachings, and other spiritual resources for collective liberation. Written in 2019, it captures the verve of Mary’s words while also drawing out shades of sorrow and adding a petitionary element. Barclay uses the gender-neutral pronoun “They” to refer to the Triune God.

My soul is alive with thoughts of God.
What a wonder, Their liberating works.
Though the world has been harsh to me,
God has shown me kindness,
seen my worth,
and called me to courage.
Surely, those who come after me will call me blessed.
Even when my heart weighs heavy with grief,
still, so does hope abide with me.
Holy is the One who makes it so.
From generation to generation,
Love’s Mercy is freely handed out;
none are beyond the borders of
God’s transforming compassion.
The power of God is revealed
among those who labor for justice.
They humble the arrogant.
They turn unjust thrones into dust.
Their Wisdom is revealed in
the lives and truths of those on the margins.
God is a feast for the hungry.
God is the great redistributor of wealth and resources.
God is the ceasing of excessive and destructive production
that all the earth might rest.
Through exiles and enslavement,
famines and wars,
hurricanes and gun violence,
God is a companion in loss,
a deliverer from evil,
a lover whose touch restores.
This is the promise They made
to my ancestors,
to me,
to all the creatures and creations,
now and yet coming,
and in this promise,
I find my strength.
Come, Great Healer,
and be with us.

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