A Life Raft by Hannah Elhard
My mother’s family are all Roman Catholics. My Nana is especially devout, attending daily mass like clockwork. She kneels to pray beside her bed every morning and every night before bed. She has done this for as long as anyone in the family can remember, going on 60 years. Part of her daily morning prayers is the Magnificat, the canticle drawn directly from this text in Luke.
She has said these prayers even on her life’s darkest mornings, even when her cruel marriage plagued her. Even the morning after an accident that split her life into “Before” and “After”, finding in herself in an aching chasm called “Loss.” Still, that next morning, she knelt beside her bed, rosary in hand, to say these words.
I have often wondered, on those most terrible days, what did these words mean to her? The text praises the just nature of God, describes him as one who lifts up the lowly. Was this her plea, please be this God right now. Was it a final grasp at hope, having lost all else was she pleading for these words to be true? Did she ever doubt these words? Did Mary?
Mary, a teenage girl, pregnant at a time when being pregnant out of wedlock would have certainly cost her her marriage, and future opportunities, possibly even her life, first uttered these words. Were they her plea, a desperate grasp at hope? In Mary’s time, as in ours, the powerful remain enthroned. Scores remain lowly and hungry, while the rich have far from nothing.
I want to have an answer, but I don’t. I know that these words, recited with diligence and deep faith, sustained my Nana when not much else could. Perhaps the Magnificat stays with us simply as that; a life raft, an assurance of God’s promise, even on our darkest days.
Luke 1: 46-55
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’