22 December, Thursday – Proclaiming the greatness of God

22 December

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1 Samuel 1:24-28

When Hannah had weaned the infant Samuel, she took him up with her together with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’
There she left him, for the Lord.

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Luke 1:46-56

Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.

The Magnificat is a beautiful prayer familiar to many Catholics. It is an integral part of the Visitation, where Mary responds to Elizabeth’s exclamation that “blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45).

The Magnificat has always been particularly memorable for me, because of a series of weekly talks that I once attended, during which a priest would explain the Magnificat. On the first week, the priest asked us a question that has stuck with me since: “Do you know what it means when your soul is proclaiming the greatness of God?”

It is one thing to proclaim something with your mouth, but to proclaim something with your soul is to believe in that thing wholeheartedly and unreservedly, with every fibre of your being. I would take it one step further to suggest that the soul could only truly proclaim the goodness of God, for if we are made in the image and likeness of God, and our souls were made out of His very goodness, then it could not be possible for the soul (having made the acquaintance of God before we were even born!) to proclaim anything else but His goodness.

But here’s the catch — we are often so caught up in our lives (or worse yet, in ourselves) that we do not listen closely enough to our souls’ deepest longings for God and His goodness. That is when the soul’s proclamations slowly die down to a whisper and finally, having found its voice fallen on deaf ears, wind down to a deafening silence. We must not let that happen.

We learn from scripture that Mary has often pondered many events (such as the words of the angel Gabriel during the Annunciation) in the silence of her heart. We also learn that Mary was extraordinarily obedient to God’s call. Perhaps all these are signs of a soul enraptured by God and deeply in love with Him. If your soul is already proclaiming the greatness of God, constantly saying yes to Him and praising Him at the same time, what need would there be for spoken words?

It is a well-worn cliche to say that we often speak but do not listen. But the problem is not simply speaking and not listening: it is speaking with the wrong part of ourselves. As we await the coming of our Lord in this advent season, let us focus on speaking to, and of, God through our souls. Let us proclaim His glory and goodness not just through spoken words or song, but through actions animated by a soul in love with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we praise you and we adore you from the depths of our souls. May our souls not fall into silence and despair, but in memory of Your loving providence, sing your praises forever.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His patience and love. For even in our waywardness, He continues to await the return of His beloved children.

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