Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
August 15, 2021

Hannah's Prayer
1 Sam 2:1-10

Then Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 2"There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 3"Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. 4"The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. 5Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. 6"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; on them he has set the world. 9He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. "It is not by strength that one prevails; 10those who oppose the LORD will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed."



QUESTIONS
FOR REFLECTION

  • What does the Feast of the Assumption mean for you?

  • What role, if any, does Mary play in your devotional life?

  • How do you define "humility"?

  • Do you have a hard time surrendering to God and, if so, why?

  • What would you have to give up to be in full alignment with God's Will?

  • Why is Mary's prayer of surrender the perfect prayer?
















Greetings, SBT Readers!

Just a brief commentary this week as I'm on vacation with my daughter and her family. As I reflect on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, I think of Carl Jung's assertion that the papal proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption (1950) was the "most important religious event since the Reformation." For Jung, this dogma placed the Feminine in the heavenly realm, along with the Trinity, thereby honoring a wisdom long-held by everyday Christians who turned to Mary as their spiritual Mother, comforter and intercessor. There are two more considerations we could add to this insight:1) at a time when, on a global level, the Feminine has never been so abused and threatened, the dogma asserts the value of women everywhere, regardless of culture or faith tradition; 2) at a time when, on a global level, "Mother Earth" has never been so desecrated, the dogma raises up the sacredness of the material universe. Though the influence of Greek thought gave Christianity an "other-worldly" aura, the dogma of The Assumption adds the much needed emphasis on the Sacred Feminine and its union with the Sacred Masculine. This is the Sacred Marriage out of which the ongoing process of salvation is born and all things will be made whole.

Many Blessings!
Elizabeth


SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

And Mary said:
   “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
      my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
      for he has looked with favor on his lowly 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,
      and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
   He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
      and has lifted up the lowly.
   He has filled the hungry with good things,
      and the rich he has sent away empty.
   He has come to the help of his servant Israel
      for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
      the promise he made to our fathers,
      to Abraham and his children forever.”
LK1:39-56

On this great Marian feast of the Assumption, it is interesting that the readings say more about God than they do about Mary. Like Hannah before her (1 Sam 2:1-10), Mary sings a song of praise acknowledging God's greatness. Hannah, once barren, dedicates her son Samuel to God's service in fulfillment of her vow; Mary, a virgin, acknowledges that through her Son, God's promises will be fulfilled. Hannah's prayer begins with an outpouring of joy: "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high." Mary's expression of joy is even more powerful: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." For both women, joy goes beyond unexpected motherhood; rather, it has to do with their delight in serving God. God does "great things" for both Hannah and Mary, but this does not lead them to claim greatness or to consider themselves to be better than others. Instead, their response is one of humility: God is the source of their blessings and they are the vessels through whom the Divine Will will be accomplished. Having been insulted and scorned for being barren, Hannah is aware of herself as one of the lowly whom God has raised from the dust; Mary, on the other hand, is aware of the great privilege to which she is being called, even though to be an unwed mother in her society could be the equivalent of a death sentence. Both women share a similar understanding of who the Holy One is: For them, God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed, exalting the lowly ones, casting down the rich and arrogant; guarding the virtuous, condemning the wicked; feeding the hungry, sending the satiated away empty...

Mary's many names-- Stella Maris, Queen of Heaven, Mater Dei-- point to her almost divine status in the popular imagination. Traditionally, she is often represented with celestial symbols -- crowned with twelve stars, clothed in the sun, standing on the crescent of the moon. Moreover, feasts such as The Assumption, The Immaculate Conception, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe reflect her importance in many cultures, especially those in which she became the bridge between goddess worship and Christianity -- for example, she replaced the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, along with mother goddesses worshipped in Europe and the Near East.

But despite all her titles and festivals, it is Mary's humility that truly makes her great-- not the pseudo-humility of passivity, low self-esteem, self-depreciation or subservience, but the authentic humility of surrendering the totality of self to God. For some, this type of surrender may seem oppressive, even repulsive, but that is because it is so counter-cultural. Driven by ego, we in the West so value being in control and having our own way that the very idea of surrendering to God is terrifying. What if what we want and what God wants for us don't match? Suppose we have to give up our plans and head in a direction we could never have imagined? Suppose we have to let go of old habits, attitudes, and lifestyles? Suppose God wants to stretch us in ways that will force us out of our comfort zones?
To use a cliché, Mary certainly had to "let go and let God"; she was only able to do this because her will and God's Will were in perfect alignment:

“..Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38)
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