Psalm 98: Mary’s Echo

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 8, 2020


Sing to the LORD a new song,
Who has done wondrous deeds;
Whose right hand has won victory,
God’s holy arm.

Psalm 98:1

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we pray with Psalm 98, a song foreshadowing Mary’s prophetic Magnificat.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has looked with favor on His humble 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.

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, describes the Mary’s Magnificat like this:

… in the line of the great biblical singers Miriam, Moses, Deborah and Hannah, Mary launches into divine praise. Her spirit rejoices in God her Savior, for poor and common woman though she may be, the powerful, living, holy God is doing great things to her. Not to her only but to all the poor, bringing the mighty down from their thrones, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry with good things, sending the unrepentant rich away empty all of this in fulfillment of the ancient promise. In her very being this is happening, for she embodies the nonentities on whom God is lavishing rescue. This great prayer, a revolutionary song of salvation, places Mary in solidarity with the project of the coming reign of God whose intent is to heal, redeem and liberate.


Psalm 98 focuses us on the point that our prayer today with Mary is about God’s power for the poor, the lowly, the hungry, the bereaved, frightened, lost, lonely and sorrowing — all the beloved aching children of God.

Mary says there is a Power much greater than the one that oppresses any of us. Look to that Power with hope. Draw strength from that Promise.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his mercy and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

Psalm 98: 2-3

Mary and Psalm 98 invite us to a “new song”
in a world that seems to have forgotten how to sing.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98: 3-4

Poem: Segments of a poem “A New Magnificat” by Hillary Watson, Pastor of Shalom Community Church, Ann  Arbor, MI.

And why should I not be smiling,
knowing what I know now
about what comes after all this
when all the evil falls down,
when justice bursts like a sweet flood through the streets
and all the pennies thrown into all wishing wells
rise up like miracles?

Let me tell you the Good News:
There is Good News.
That’s it:
goodness, somewhere, rushing toward us
in the place where future meets present tense.
Hope unwinds across the fragile world
and whispers its nightmares away.

There is a good day coming, I can see it,
when the walls built up between countries
crumble back into the earth they rose from
and all the people run free where they want
like every contour of every nation was shaped by the same God,

there’s a day coming when bullets freeze themselves
in the policeman’s guns, when all the Border Patrol cars
stall out in one breath, their guns and tasers
melt into plows and paintbrushes,

and the children trapped in desert camps
sing down the walls that hold them,
they sing back the road to their mothers and their fathers.

Music: The Magnificat- sung by the Daughters of Mary

Let Mary Be Mary

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(December 9th this year because the 8th fell on the Second Sunday of Advent)

Click here for readings

Today, in. Mercy, we celebrate one of the many feasts honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Today’s feast can be confusing to people. It is sometimes mixed up with the Virgin Birth – the moment when Jesus was born. What we celebrate today, however, is the moment Mary was conceived by her parents, Anna and Joachim.

275px-Santi_gioacchino_e_anna

From a young age, I have had a tender devotion to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Some of my local readers will be familiar with the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Established in 1915, the Shrine promotes this devotion through its well-known novena and other means.

medal

My Mom and Dad said that novena every day. Most Monday evenings, Mom and I would walk to our parish church where the community gathered to pray the novena together, celebrate Benediction, and sing the rousing hymn to Mary entitled, “O Mary, Conceived Without Sin”. ( I know some of my old friends are humming the tune right now🤗) When I received my First Communion, I was given my first Miraculous Medal which I treasured.

( A little reminiscence about that coming later today. Hope you enjoy it.)


These remembered devotions were the foundation on which the legacy of faith was planted in our young hearts. But as with any good foundation, a rich garden of understanding has grown from that early soil. Over the intervening years, many graced theologians have helped me grow in understanding of, and relationship with Mary.

One powerful impetus for this growth has come from Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph and Professor Emerita at Fordham University. Her magnificent work Truly Our Sister opens with this sentence:

“ This book proposes that one fruitful approach to the theology of Mary, historically the mother of Jesus, called in faith the Theotokos or God-bearer, is to envision her as a concrete woman of our history who walked with the Spirit.”

Tanner Annunciation
Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Reading Johnson and others has let me see Mary more fully, allowing Mary to move from an isolated perfectionism to a womanly humanity transformed by the Holy Spirit. Johnson says:

“ I am proposing that one fruitful way to work out a liberating feminist theology of Mary is to locate her in the communion of saints and there to remember her, dangerously and consolingly, as a woman with her own particular history among her contemporaries and before God. At first glance placing Mary in the company of the saints may seem strange to those accustomed to more traditional Catholic practice, even though the title ‘Saint Mary’ adorns many churches, schools, and other institutions. It may even seem a diminishment of the honor that is her due as the Theotokos, or bearer of God. But at root it grants her the greatest honor the Christian tradition acknowledges for a human being, namely, the core dignity of being created in the divine image and likeness and gifted, in community with others, with a graced relationship to the living God.”

Today, as we pray with our many images, devotions and understandings of Mary, may we open our hearts to be inspired by her singular witness to God’s desire to be among us.

Music: The Magnificat – Mary’s radical prayer for justice and mercy, sung here in Latin by the Daughters of Mary (English below)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their seat s
and has exalted the humble and meek.
He has filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he has sent empty away.
Remembering his mercy, he has helped his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his posterity forever.