My Soul Magnifies the LordA Scriptural Journey with MaryJeanne Kun
The Word Among Us9639 Doctor Perry RoadIjamsville, Maryland 21754www.wordamongus.orgCopyright 2003 by The Word Among Us PressAll rights reserved.Poems Advent Overture, Visitation Day, The Road to Bethlehem, Anna’s Heir, Journey by Starlight, Freed from theFowler’s Snare, In Mary’s Steps, Mary’s Bidding, Pietà, and Pentecost Vigil, copyright 2003 by Jeanne Kun.All rights reserved. Used by permission.Cover and Book Design: David CrossonScripture passages contained herein are from the Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, 1965 and1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.All rights reserved. Used by permission.Cover image: Gerard David, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, c. 1510 2003 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Nihil obstat: Reverend Monsignor Vincent J. Haut, VGCensor LibrorumJuly 22, 2003Imprimatur: Most Reverend Victor GaleoneBishop of Saint AugustineJuly 25, 2003ISBN: 1-59325-023-1Library of Congress Control Number: 2003111631No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or byany means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except brief quotations in printedreviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.Made and printed in the United States of America.
ContentsIntroduction4Reflection 1:The AnnunciationReflection 2:The Visitation8243Reflection 3:The Nativity 40Reflection 4:The Presentation58Reflection 5:The Adoration of the MagiReflection 6:The Flight into Egypt7492Reflection 7:The Finding of the Child Jesus in the TempleReflection 8:The Wedding at CanaReflection 9:At the Foot of the Cross126142Reflection 10:Pentecost 158Source Notes and Acknowledgments175110
IntroductionL4ive as the Blessed Virgin lived: lovingGod only, desiring God only, trying toplease God only in all that we do.”This was the wise advice given by St. JohnVianney to his parishioners in the French village of Ars more than a century ago, and it isstill applicable for us today. My Soul Magnifiesthe Lord: A Scriptural Journey with Mary provides readers with the opportunity to examine the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary andcome to know her in a deeper way. As we accompany Mary on her pilgrimage of faith, welearn about the woman who magnified theLord in such a profound way. And from Mary,who bore the Word made flesh, we learnhow to follow her son, Jesus.Since God chose this young Jewish womanto enter into his work of redemption, we areoften tempted to think of Mary as so perfectthat she is beyond emulation. We may envision her as a beautifully crafted statue atop atall pedestal or a stately queen enthroned inthe heights of heaven. Yet, while Mary wasprivileged to be chosen by God and filledwith grace to prepare her for her uniquerole, she was nonetheless an ordinary youngwoman of Israel.Perhaps barely more than a girl when theangel Gabriel brought God’s bewildering request to her, Mary must have been greatlychallenged to believe God and the mysterieshe was asking her to participate in. Withouthesitation, however, she gave her assent. Asthe mother of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God,Mary caught him in her arms when he tookhis first faltering steps, witnessed his firstmiracle at Cana, and wept as he died on thecross.The New Testament does not provide aphysical description of Mary (nor, for thatmatter, of Jesus). In all likelihood, she had thedistinguishing features and other physicaltraits—complexion and color of hair—of anywoman of her times of Semitic descent, but weknow no more about her appearance than weknow about her son’s. Surely, though, therewas a close family resemblance between them,since Mary was Jesus’ biological mother.The Gospels are also silent about Mary’sbirth and death. None of the evangelistswrote a biography of Mary, and none gave usthe kind of vital statistics and curriculumvitae that would be found in the latest editionof Who’s Who. We will be disappointed if weare looking for such particulars about Mary aswe read the New Testament.However, the few scenes painted byMatthew, Mark, Luke, and John in whichMary played a role portray all that is essentialin order for us to know her. These events—the“Marian moments” of the Bible—depict anaccurate portrait of her heart and characterand also clearly tell us who Mary is: woman offaith; Virgin Mother of the Lord; intercessor;Mother of the church.Where did the evangelists receive the information about Mary and about Jesus’ infancy? We can assume that, in the earliest days
of the church, Mary “passed on to the disciplesher memories of the Incarnation, the infancy,the hidden life and the mission of her divineSon as a priceless treasure, thus helping tomake him known and to strengthen the faithof believers” (Pope John Paul II, General audience of May 28, 1997). In revealing herknowledge and memories about her son, Maryalso revealed much about herself.Through the centuries, tradition and theteaching authority of the Catholic Churchhave given us much to treasure about Mary bydeepening our understanding of biblical truths.In A.D. 431, at the Council of Ephesus, thechurch accorded to Mary the title “Mother ofGod” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 466).The early church also affirmed its faith inMary’s perpetual virginity (CCC, 499). Thechurch’s recognition that Mary, “full of grace,”was redeemed from the moment of her conception culminated in the dogma of theImmaculate Conception, defined in 1854(CCC, 491). In 1950, the church definedthe dogma of the Assumption of Mary. SinceMary had been preserved from sin, she was alsopreserved from physical decay, the punishmentfor sin. And so our pilgrimage with the BlessedVirgin ends in the glorious hope of our ownbodily resurrection (CCC, 966).How to Use This BookIn My Soul Magnifies the Lord: A ScripturalJourney with Mary, we accompany Marythrough the crucial events of her life, and sheaccompanies us on our pilgrimage of faith.Each chapter focuses on a “scene” from herlife as recorded in the New Testament. As youbegin each reflection, carefully read theScripture narrative—provided in this book inthe Revised Standard Version—and meditateon it. Also read the accompanying section“Reflecting on the Word” to deepen your understanding of the text.Two sets of questions are included in eachchapter to help you explore the full scope ofthe passage and consider its relevance toyour own life. Those under the heading“Pondering the Word” require an attentivereading of the Scripture selection and focuson the content and meaning of the text.“Living the Word” questions prompt you toapply the lessons and truths learned throughScripture to your own life.“Rooted in the Word” offers brief comments on various attributes of Mary as well asof others in the Bible—among them Ruth,Hannah, and Abraham—that are modeled inthe corresponding scene. Additional Scripture texts further illustrate the virtue or character trait highlighted in this section. Aselection from a Catholic writer—ancient ormodern—concludes each chapter. These excerpts, under the heading “Treasuring theWord,” are indeed treasures from the church’srich Marian heritage.The format of My Soul Magnifies the Lord issuited to personal reflection and individualstudy as well as group discussion. In either5
6case, begin each session with prayer, askingGod to speak to you through his word.Although each chapter’s Scripture scene isprovided in full in this book, you may find ithelpful to have a Bible on hand for looking upother passages and cross-references.Whether you use this book for personalstudy or as an aid in your prayer time, read atyour own pace, taking the time to meditate onthe material and pursue any thoughts it bringsto mind. You will gain the most benefit fromyour study by writing your answers to the questions in the space provided. End your readingor study with a prayer of thanksgiving toGod for what you have learned and ask theHoly Spirit how to apply it to your life.If you use this book in a Bible study group,it is especially important that each membertake the time to prepare well for each session.Read the material decided upon in advanceand consider your answers to the questions sothe group can have a rewarding discussion inthe time allotted. Actively contribute to thediscussion, but also listen attentively to theothers in the group. Respect each member ofthe group and their contribution to the discussion. The group might also want to designate a leader or moderator to facilitate thediscussion and to include a time of prayer together during the meeting.As you progress through the events ofMary’s life, we pray that you too will befilled with the grace that God so lavishlypoured upon his mother. On that day whenMary told her cousin Elizabeth about thegreat miracle that had come to pass withinher, she proclaimed that her soul magnifiedthe Lord (Luke 1:46). As we grow closer toJesus through his mother, may our own soulsreflect the Lord and the glory he has in storefor all of us.Jeanne KunThe Word Among Us
REFLECTION 1The AnnunciationBehold, I am thehandmaid of the Lord; let itbe to me according to yourword.Luke 1:38Our Lady was full of Godbecause she lived for Godalone, yet she thought ofherself only as thehandmaid of the Lord. Letus do the same.Blessed Mother Teresa ofCalcutta, Jesus, the Word to BeSpoken
Advent OvertureMight Gabriel have gasped in wonderat the task entrusted him:To be heraldof God’s generosity and deedthat would clothe all majesty in humility?Did he quailto bring such request from eternal divinityto an earthly child’s mortality?Did he hesitateat the sight of the fragile virginity before him,fearing whether this frail womb could bear God’s weightand contain infinity within its walls?Then resolutelyGabriel’s greeting broke upon Mary,plowing furrowsin the fertile silence of her soulso God’s word might be planted therelike seed in a readied field.Did the angel tremble thenwhile waiting this child’s answer,anxious that she not refuse?And then she gave consent.9
[ Advent Overture ]The seed was sown,the Word conceived.God found home upon the earthand would receive a mother’s warm embrace.10Perhaps Gabriel sighed in relief with task accomplishedand the angel-hosts of heaven sang their joy at her reply(and already hide their faces in reverence at his fleshsoon to lie naked against the raw wood of the manger and the cross).Then silence folded in againaround the virgin childas Gabriel took leave of her.But she was not alone,for with her fiat Mary’s hearthad begun to beat in unison (and full accord)with the One now growing in her womb. !
The SceneLuke 1:26-381:26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel wassent from God to a city of Galilee namedNazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a manwhose name was Joseph, of the house ofDavid; and the virgin’s name was Mary.28And he came to her and said, “Hail, full ofgrace, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she wasgreatly troubled at the saying, and consideredin her mind what sort of greeting this mightbe. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not beafraid, Mary, for you have found favor withGod. 31And behold, you will conceive inyour womb and bear a son, and you shall callhis name Jesus.32He will be great, and will be called theSon of the Most High;and the Lord God will give to him thethrone of his father David,33and he will reign over the house ofJacob for ever;and of his kingdom there will be no end.”34And Mary said to the angel, “How can thisbe, since I have no husband?” 35And theangel said to her,“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,and the power of the Most Highwill overshadow you;therefore the child to be born will becalled holy,the Son of God.36And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth inher old age has also conceived a son; and thisis the sixth month with her who was calledbarren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am thehandmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.11
ReflectingReflecting on the WordSS12ince the beginning, God has spokenwith the men and women whom he created. First, he revealed himself to Adamand Eve so that they might know him andenjoy fellowship with him—a relationship somovingly described as “God walking in thegarden in the cool of the day” amid his creation (Genesis 3:8). Thus, the story of Adamand Eve’s fall is a wrenching illustration of thesin that separates the human race from its creator. Yet, when our first parents were disobedient, God did not stop speaking to them, nordid he let his plan for his creation be thwarted.Even as Adam and Eve tried to excuse theirfault (3:12-13), God spoke his first words ofpromise to reverse the consequences of sin andto triumph over Satan, giving a hint of hopeof the redemption to come: Eve’s offspringwould crush the serpent (3:15).After the fall, humankind began its longwait for a savior. Through the centuries,God continued his conversation with hischosen people as he spoke to the patriarchsand prophets of Israel, repeatedly renewinghis promise. Finally the long-awaited time isat hand: God enters into conversation onceagain, this time with Mary of Nazareth. Outof this unique conversation, the Word becomes flesh.The angel Gabriel’s words to Mary, “Hail,full of grace” (Luke 1:28), announce a radical new turn in God’s dialogue with humankind. God singles out a young Jewishwoman and, through Gabriel, makes a mo-mentous request of her: to bear the “Son ofthe Most High” (1:31-32). Mary’s question,“How can this be, since I have no husband?”(1:34), is not a skeptic’s demand for proof thatends any further discussion; rather, with herinquiry, she enters more deeply into the conversation, expressing a willingness to graspsomething holy and mysterious.In answer, Gabriel offers Mary no physiological explanation because Jesus is to be conceived in a way that surpasses nature. Instead,he assures her that nothing is impossible forGod (Luke 1:37): It is the Holy Spirit whowill overshadow and empower her (1:35).Thus, in conceiving and bearing the Son ofGod, Mary will remain a virgin. This “overshadowing” is the same presence and glory ofGod that rested on the “dwelling” or “tabernacle”—the portable tent-sanctuary that theIsraelites carried with them to house theArk of the Covenant as they journeyedthrough the wilderness (Exodus 40:34-35).Mary must have been in awe as she heardGabriel describe the child to be so wondrously conceived in her. He is to be namedJesus (Luke 1:31), meaning “The Lord saves.”This child whom Mary is asked to bear wouldbe the promised heir of Israel’s greatest king,David: “The Lord God will give to him thethrone of his father David, and he will reignover the house of Jacob for ever; and of hiskingdom there will be no end” (1:32-33).In these few moments, Mary’s future hasbeen unveiled for her. God has, amazingly,
asked her to be the mother of Israel’s Messiah!St. Bernard of Clairvaux eloquently captures the sense of anticipation as Gabrielawaited Mary’s response in his Homilies inPraise of the Blessed Virgin Mary:Say the word and receive the Word:give yours and conceive God’s. Breatheone fleeting word and embrace theeverlasting Word. . . . Blessed Virgin,open your heart to faith, your lips toconsent and your womb to your Creator.Behold, the long-desired of all nationsis standing at the door and knocking.(Homily IV, 8)Although she understands little of whatthis would mean for her, Mary gives herwholehearted and unreserved assent: “Behold,I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to meaccording to your word” (Luke 1:38).Mary’s consent is not cheap or ill-considered. She was a young woman of Israel,steeped in a knowledge of the propheticpromises God had made to his people and fullof eager longing to see them fulfilled. Sheheld God’s word and his promises in reverence and based her life on them. So, thoughshe is bewildered and unsure of all the implications of the angel’s message, her yes toGod rises out of faith in him and in his wisdom and goodness. She takes God at hisword and trusts him totally to fulfill it in herand to care for her as she gives herself over toit. She has an unerring conviction that Godwill honor and meet her consent with grace,help, and protection, supplying her with allshe needs to carry it out.Nor is Mary’s fiat a “one-time only” consent—it will be repeated over and over in thedays and years ahead. It initially opens her tobe the recipient of the Word making a homein her. Mary will literally bear the Word ofGod in the flesh; then she will be borne up byhim. Her steady pondering of the word andher constant affirmation of it, repeatedly assenting to God’s purposes, will carry her forward in unwavering faith and obedience.Two thousand years after Mary said yes toGod in Nazareth, her example still offers usstrength to follow God’s will in our own lives.As we stood on the threshold of this new millennium, Pope John Paul II wrote of her:Mary, who conceived the IncarnateWord by the power of the Holy Spiritand then in the whole of her life allowed herself to be guided by his interior activity, will be contemplated andimitated . . . above all as the womanwho was docile to the voice of theSpirit, a woman of silence and attentiveness, a woman of hope. (TertioMillennio Adveniente, 48)13
PonderingPondering the Word1. Gabriel called Mary “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) and told her that she had “found favor withGod” (1:30). The original Greek word kecharitomene (translated here as “favor”) is relatedto “grace,” indicating that Mary was “graced” by God. What do Gabriel’s words imply aboutthe way God prepared Mary for her role as the Mother of God?142. How did Gabriel describe the child Mary was to bear (Luke 1:31-33, 35)? What might Maryhave understood by the titles the angel applied to this child? Read 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah9:6-7, and Psalm 89:26-29 to expand your understanding.
3. Note the words and actions of Mary in this scene that indicate how she felt about the angel’sgreeting and his announcement. What do they reveal about her character? What changesin her emotions and responses do you think she expressed as the conversation with Gabrielprogressed?154. What does Mary’s question, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34), suggest to you about the interplay between faith that seeks for understanding and doubt or unbelief? In what sort oftone or attitude do you think she posed her question?
LivingLiving the Word1. When have you felt that God was asking the unimaginable of you? How did you respondto him? What kind of questions or doubts did you raise before God? How can Mary’s example help you trust God and his intentions for you?172. What sorts of “signs” has God given you to strengthen your faith, confirm his word to you,or reassure you of his care? How did you respond to these signs? Can you recall any situation in your life, or in the life of someone you know, where you would say God did the“impossible” (Luke 1:37)? What effect did this have on your faith?
[ Living the Word ]3. Have you ever experienced something surprisingly new and fresh coming to birth in yourcircumstances once you said yes to God? How different was this from your own expectations and plans?184. Mary received God’s word through the angelic messenger and carried the Word-made-fleshwithin her. In what ways does God’s word come to you? How have you let it “make a home”in you?
RootedRooted in the WordMary: A Portrait of Trusting Obedience20Mary’s assent to God’s request is amodel to us in many ways: a modelfor responding to the will of theFather in our lives; for personally welcomingand receiving Jesus; for being open to the action of the Holy Spirit; and for embracing theword of God and allowing it to be implantedin us to grow and bear fruit.When Mary gave her consent to bearJesus, the Word was made flesh—literally—from her human substance. Physically, Jesushad her genes. In appearance, perhaps heeven “had his mother’s eyes” and the samehair color and complexion as hers. Yearslater, when Jesus declared, “My mother andmy brethren are those who hear the word ofGod and do it” (Luke 8:21), he was not repudiating his family ties or criticizing hismother. Rather, he was commending Marynot only as his mother according to theflesh, but as one who had indeed done thewill of God. By pointing to Mary’s obedienceand trust, Jesus was making it clear that herfundamental relationship with him was notthrough her physical connection to him butthrough hearing and acting on the word ofGod. As St. Augustine expressed it, Mary ismore blessed “not because in her womb theWord was made flesh and dwelt among us,but because she kept God’s very Word,through whom she was made, and who wasmade flesh in her” (Tractate X on the Gospelof John, 3).None of us can be united with Jesus in theway that Mary was as his biological mother.But each of us can, like her, embrace himthrough faith and trust. Through our obedience to his word, we, too, can be closely andintimately united to Jesus as members of hisfamily.Read and prayerfully reflect on these additional Scripture passages that portray examples of acting in trusting obedience to God:Sacrifice and offering thou dost notdesire;but thou hast given me an open ear.Burnt offering and sin offering thouhast not required.Then I said, “Lo, I come;in the roll of the book it is writtenof me;I delight to do thy will, O my God.”(Psalm 40:6-8)[Jesus] fell on his face and prayed, “MyFather, if it be possible, let this cuppass from me; nevertheless, not as Iwill, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)
Have this mind among yourselves,which was in Christ Jesus, who, thoughhe was in the form of God, did notcount equality with God a thing to begrasped, but emptied himself, takingthe form of a servant, being born in thelikeness of men. And being found inhuman form he humbled himself andbecame obedient unto death, evendeath on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)By faith Abraham obeyed when he wascalled to go out to a place which he wasto receive as an inheritance; and hewent out, not knowing where he was togo. By faith he sojourned in the land ofpromise, as in a foreign land, living intents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs withhim of the same promise. For he lookedforward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.(Hebrews 11:8-10)Rebekah: Another Portrait of Trusting ObedienceRead Genesis 24The Old Testament’s story of Rebekahresembles the Annunciation scenein several ways. In Luke’s account,God sent Gabriel, his servant, to Mary to gainher consent to bear his Son. In Genesis,Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for hisson Isaac. In both instances, the consent ofthe woman allowed God’s plan of salvation tofurther unfold.Rebekah went willingly with Abraham’sservant to her future husband (Genesis 24:58).Like Mary, she made a free choice, trustingGod in what she recognized as his invitationand purpose for her life. As Isaac’s wife,Rebekah became the mother of Jacob and thegrandmother of Judah—from whose tribe theMessiah was descended. Through their trustand obedience, both Rebekah and Mary became key links in Christ’s genealogy.We see the mystery of God’s action inRebekah and Mary: Each gave her consentfreely, yet it was given in response to God’sgrace. We, too, can rely on God for thegrace that prepares us to embrace his will.21
TreasuringTreasuring the WordA Reading from The Reed of God by Caryll HouselanderFiat22To what was [Mary] asked to consent?It almost seemed as if God’s becomingman and being born of a woman wereordinary. . . .First of all, to the descent of the HolySpirit, to surrender her littleness to theInfinite Love, and as a result to becomethe Mother of Christ.Outwardly [Mary’s daily life] would notdiffer from the life she would have led ifshe had not been chosen to be the Brideof the Spirit and the Mother of God at all!It was so tremendous, yet so passive.She was not even asked to live it alonewith this God who was her own Being andwhose Being was to be hers.She was not asked to do anything herself,but to let something be done to her.She was not asked to lead a special kind oflife, to retire to the temple and live as anun, to cultivate suitable virtues or claimspecial privileges.She was simply to remain in the world, togo forward with her marriage to Joseph, tolive the life of an artisan’s wife, just whatshe had planned to do when she had noidea that anything out of the ordinarywould ever happen to her.No, He asked for her ordinary life sharedwith Joseph. She was not to neglect hersimple human tenderness, her love for anearthly man, because God was her unbornchild.On the contrary, the hands and feet, theheart, the waking, sleeping and eating thatwere forming Christ were to form Him inservice to Joseph.Yes, it certainly seemed that God wantedto give the world the impression that it isordinary for Him to be born of a humancreature.
Well, that is a fact. God did mean it to bethe ordinary thing, for it is His will thatChrist shall be born in every humanbeing’s life and not, as a rule, throughextraordinary things, but through theordinary daily life and the human lovethat people give to one another.What we shall be asked to give is our fleshand blood, our daily life—our thoughts,our service to one another, our affectionsand loves, our words, our intellect, ourwaking, working and sleeping, ourordinary human joys and sorrows—toGod.Our Lady said yes.To surrender all that we are, as we are, tothe Spirit of Love in order that our livesmay bear Christ into the world—that iswhat we shall be asked.She said yes for us all. . . .Our Lady said yes for the human race.Each one of us must echo that yes for ourown lives.We are all asked if we will surrender whatwe are, our humanity, our flesh and blood,to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fillthe emptiness formed by the particularshape of our life.The surrender that is asked of us includescomplete and absolute trust; it must belike Our Lady’s surrender, withoutcondition and without reservation. . . .Our Lady has made this possible. Her fiatwas for herself and for us, but if we wantGod’s will to be completed in us as it is inher, we must echo her fiat.23
cerpts, under the heading “Treasuring the Word,” are indeed treasures from the church’s rich Marian heritage. The format ofMy Soul Magnifies the Lord is suited to personal reflection an