The Magnificat is also used exclusively as a solid Marian light which makes us vividly aware of God’s love of preference for the poor, the humble, and how this is intimately connected with the Christian meaning of freedom and liberation – of redemption.
Here again Mary has her place. She can serve as an inspiration in this aspect of the Christian mission because, as stated in the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation published in 1986:
“Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and the universe” (#97).
Mary helps us understand that the most radical source of true liberation of individuals and even structures is precisely this total surrender or, as she reminds us at La Salette, this submission to God and his plan for us. Without a revolution of the heart, merely political and social revolutions only lay the foundations for the next revolution in an endless chain of humanly oppressive and destructive revolts.
Mary proclaims the great things that God does, but these are done for those “who fear him,” those who not only are poor and lowly, but have surrendered to him. Mary calls, in a variety of ways, to this radical revolution, which is first and foremost conversion.
There is much richness to draw from her Magnificat and from other truths about Mary, such as her role in the growing appreciation of the feminine aspect of the divine presence and the Church. Mary truly offers a seemingly inexhaustible source of faith reflection. And, as we begin another Liturgical Year, we are invited once again to revisit and reflect on Mary as a symbol of Advent and ongoing faith in the One born in Bethlehem of Judea.
Exploring Marian Spirituality
Concretely, what are some ways we can explore expressing our faith, based on Catholic Marian spirituality.
First of all, spend time with Mary. It is as plain and as simple as that. If we are not already doing so, we should make time for her in our day. Let us do like the apostle John and welcome Mary, take her into our own home. As Pope Saint John Paul II said:
Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, "welcomes" the Mother of Christ "into his own home and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that is to say into his human and Christian "I": he "took her to his own home" (Redemptoris Mater, #45).
This is the first step: profess our faith in Mary’s great love and presence by simply spending time with her and opening our hearts, our lives, as wide as possible to her maternal love.
Take and Read
Prayerfully read Redemptoris Mater and other texts on Mary. Again, do this to feed the heart more than the head. Avoid reading only the kinds of works that foster such a strong analytical, critical spirit that one ends up with slices and splices, theological abstractions about Mary, but not with a living presence.
Read not to try to dispel the mystery that naturally accompanies any great truth of our faith, but read to encounter this mystery with ever greater love. Read and pray to move from professing to living a deep love for Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church. If some of us have left the rosary aside, let us explore ways to begin to rediscover its possibilities for reflection, for rhythmic, simple centering on Jesus and Mary.
The Gift of Our Imagination
If you have a good imagination, use it. St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises does not neglect this tremendous power that we have. In recent years we have easily dismissed using the imagination in prayer and meditation, often because of our climate of intellectualization, often from a desire to quickly arrive at more advanced levels of prayer.
My own suggestion is to try imaging as you spend time with Mary. The results may surprise you. Visualize Mary with you in every situation of your life and of her life. Talk to her, let her talk to you. Let her hold what is still the child in you that may be trembling with fear, doubt, anger, confusion, fatigue. Hear her call you by name; hear her invite you to come near; hear her send you forth.
Write Your Own Magnificat
Spend some time tracing the great things God has done both in your own life... Recognize God’s action in the flesh and blood of your own history: when and how he looked with favor on his lowly servant; when and how he smashed and scattered you in your pride, cast you down from any little thrones you had set up for yourself, or sent you away aware of how empty you really were when you thought you were so rich; how and when he lifted you up even as you experienced most forcefully your own lowliness. Put all that into concrete, vivid terms. And then give praise.
Write Your Own Fiat
Then write your own fiat. Look into the depths of your present and look out towards the possible future with conviction spell out the fiat, the yes, even though you are not sure of the cost, the possible exiles, the shape or duration of the cross you may have to carry, to climb upon.
“Yes – be it done to me according to your word.” Yes, I let go of my plans, my conditions. I surrender, I submit. Fiat! Again, spell that out in the concrete terms of your own life. At the same time, offer a prayer to Mary asking for her assistance to live out this fiat as fully and as deeply as possible.
Invite Others to Mary
And let us not fail the people we serve. Invite them to Mary. Let us attract and lead them to what the pope calls the “specific geography of faith and Marian devotion . . . these special places of pilgrimages where the People of God seek to meet the Mother of God in order to find, within the radius of the maternal presence of her ‘who believes,’ a strengthening of their own faith” (Redemptoris Mater, #28). Our La Salette Shrines, our programs of devotion, all these can be sources of grace through Mary to people and people to Mary.
I close with words from our Holy Father’s prayer:
“Mary, you received Jesus with ready obedience and undivided heart.
You allowed yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit’s hidden and powerful action.
Sustain us, O Virgin Mary, on our journey of faith.”
(This article was reprinted with permission and edited from Review for Religious, May-June 1988, pages 342- 352)