Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mary's Joyful Song

Due to the pouring rain, I was forced inside for my workout yesterday.  It was one of those days when I would have rather sat on the couch and read a good book with a cup of tea.  Some days I don't feel like exercising or praying, but I know that both are good for me and that my day will be so much better afterwards.  I dragged myself to the gym, climbed on a Spinning bike, and chose the Joyful Mysteries from my ipod playlist.

As I meditated on the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation, I thought about Mary's joyful canticle, known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  A canticle is a sacred song, and Mary must have been bursting with joy as she sang to Elizabeth, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." (Luke 1:46-47)  Mary was to be the Mother of God Incarnate.  How could she not be filled with joy?

What I find especially interesting about the Magnificat is the remarkable similarity to Hannah's canticle in the Old Testament.  (1 Samuel 2:1-10)  Hannah, who also calls herself a handmaid, is the mother of Samuel, a judge and great prophet in ancient Israel.  Hannah and Samuel are Old Testament "pre-figures" of Mary and Jesus.  These precursors are flawed and have not reached perfection, but Mary and Jesus are the fulfillment and perfection of the many Old Testament figures who foretell them.

If you haven't read 1 Samuel, it's not to be missed, especially the fascinating story of the loss and return of the Ark of the Covenant.  If you don't have a Bible nearby, you can read 1 Samuel online.

I have a beautiful recording of Mary's Magnificat on my ipod.  It's called "Canticle of the Turning" from the album Safety Harbor.  You can download it on Amazon.  (Listen to a preview by clicking the "Play all samples" arrow.) 

The tune for this version of the Magnificat is based on a lovely Irish folk song called "Star of the County Down."  I like this version though there are hundreds of different arrangements.  It's a sweet song about a young man who sees a beautiful girl and plans how to win her love.  View the lyrics here.

I came across the painting above while searching for a joyful depiction of The Visitation.   It was created by Danish artist, Carl Bloch in the 19th century.  Interestingly, this painting inspired Norman Rockwell to create "The Homecoming" to portray the joyful welcome to a soldier returning from World War II.  Learn more at The Deacon's Bench.

It's important that we find the joy in being a Catholic.  Too often we focus on guilt and our faults and shortcomings.  Ask Mary to fill you with so much joy that it cannot be contained and must be belted out in song.


The Frat Pack + Me said...

I agree....let's find the joy in being Catholic!

Blue Mantle said...

Hi Peggy,

I am Irish and I loved your reference to The Magnificat and The Star of the County Down. My husband has written a version of The Magnificat for our Catholic music ministry here on the west coast of Ireland. Our ministry, Blue Mantle Music, has been created in honour of Our Lady as she inpires us daily. Have a listen to our version of The Magnificat here: http://bluemantlemusic.bandcamp.com

I hope you like it!

God bless,
Nóirín Rafferty
Blue Mantle Music

Angela said...

Yes! Amen to finding the joy in being Catholic! :) Found your blog off Catholic Mothers Online! Welcome! And I look forward to reading more :)

Peggy Bowes said...

Norin-- How wonderful to hear from a reader in Ireland! I'm (mostly) Irish and long to visit the Emerald Isle someday. I've always been drawn to Irish music, and your version of The Magnificat is lovely. Thanks for sharing!

Frat Pack and Angela-- thanks for your comments about the need to be joyful Catholics.

Blessings to you all,