My Soul Proclaims (Magnificat)– from a live performance at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Salem, Oregon, 2011.
NOTE: Part one, which features a three-part a cappella song, “Never Before,” is available here.
The second installment in my Advent music about Mary is my setting of the Magnificat, a song found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Mary says (or, perhaps, sings) this canticle proclaiming God’s liberating action during a visit to her much older cousin, Elizabeth (who is pregnant with John the Baptist).
When I originally wrote this setting, I spent a lot of time in reading portions of Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints. I have come to see Mary as a strong woman who gave her consent to God’s inhabiting her very body in a remarkably literal way. She was definitely not following in anyone’s footsteps, and had to rely on her own lived experience of God, rather than on the opinions of those around her, to live as the mother of Christ.
I call the piece “My Soul Proclaims,” which is really what the word “magnificat” means (literally, “my soul magnifies”). Part of the piece goes into a samba- I especially think of how Mary is a source of strength to many in Brazil, especially women living in poverty – and this particular rhythmic feel is one that allows joy to burst wide open.
Text to “My Soul Proclaims” (Luke 1:46-55):
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.