While conducting some personal, plagiaristic research for this week's blog, I suppose we should not be surprised that, in late Advent for the past four years, I have written about the Magnificat or "Mary's Sunday.”
The stories in our Revised Common Lectionary are told over and over in a three-year cycle, and they never grow old. They feed us and sustain us, and we have come to expect them and rejoice when a familiar one crops up.
I hear the comments and questions from various folks, and in the confines of my own mind, I confess:
“Is Advent II or Advent III John the Baptist Sunday?”
Depends upon the particular lectionary year. This year, Year C, he showed up on both Sundays.
“Oh, yes, Advent IV is the Sunday for the Magnificat, isn’t it?”
True for Year C and for this Sunday, December 23, but not always true.
We have the lamps and the “keep awake” lesson on Advent I, don’t we?
Again, true, but for only two of the three lectionary years. The parable of the fig tree and the sun/moon/stars were in the Gospel lesson for Advent Sunday immediately past.
However, this coming Sunday is definitely “Mary’s Sunday, and the musical treasures abound. Indeed, Year C Advent IV is just fun to plan!
The Old Testament lesson is a call from the prophet Micah to pay attention. He also reminds us that the one coming “shall be the one of peace.”
The New Testament lesson from Hebrews reminds us that Christ came into the world to do God’s will.
The Psalm appointed is optional and can be replaced with the Magnificat canticle, which we will sing.
In Advent, the Revised Common Lectionary offers a few canticles as options in place of the Psalm. The canticles are in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and it seems that we rarely get to sing them. I am personally delighted to see opportunities to use them in the Holy Eucharist more and more.
And the Gospel lesson is, frankly, one of my favorite stories in the book, the visitation of Mary - the mother of Jesus - with her older cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.
A number of our hymns this Sunday highlight the Magnificat. “Ye who claim the faith of Jesus,” a beloved tune of this parish by David Hurd, includes a descant on the last stanza with the Latin words of the Magnificat superimposed on top of the Magnificat English translation. (Genius.)
We will also sing the Basque carol “The Angel Gabriel,” another beloved favorite of our congregation. This text tells the other Marian story of the annunciation and includes numerous quotations from Gabriel and Mary. The third stanza includes a direct quote from the Magnificat.
And we will end the 10:30 Sunday liturgy by singing the complete metrical canticle of the Magnificat, “Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord,” which has become a favorite hymn at Church of the Holy Communion.
At the Offertory, the women of the Motet Choir will sing a beautiful setting of the medieval German carol “Maria walks amid the thorn.” The imagery of this text is hauntingly beautiful.
Yes, Sunday is the day before Christmas Eve. A busy time for us all, I know. However, do not miss “Mary’s Sunday” this year.
I’ll see you, or better yet, “hear you” in church on Sunday.
A blessed Advent and Christmastide to us all!