"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,"
Mary sings.

My soul.

Mary doesn't simply think about it.
Or pray about it.
Or keep the greatness of the Lord lodged in her heart.

No, Mary's song takes voice out of something
greater than the mind;
beyond the speech of lips;
and deeper than the caverns of the heart.

Mary's proclamation of what God has done for her,
comes from the depths and the heights of her soul.

Perhaps Mary's proclamation comes from her soul
because her mind and lips and heart are already filled
with joy in the Lord.
Joy overflowing to her soul.

Perhaps Mary's proclamation comes from her soul
because of the trouble she faces in life.
A peasant girl.
But pregnant.
Which means the Bible's description
of her lowliness is an understatement,
if not terribly inaccurate
given the societal norms in first century Palestine.

Perhaps Mary's proclamation comes from her soul
because living under the occupation of a brutal Roman force,
casting down the mighty from their thrones
was close to the last thing she could every imagine,
and the most liberating thing
that could come to her and to her people.

I don't know precisely what prompted Mary to sing.
Sing from her soul.
To proclaim from her soul the greatness of the Lord.
But this I know:
her delight is undeniable;
her surprise readily apparent;
her joy absolute and unbridled.
In my experience,
delight and surprise and joy such as this
come in almost unexplainable,
certainly unexpected ways.

Often in moments of profound sorrow;
confusion the mind cannot resolve;
pain too deep for words;
unresolvable tension that distresses the heart.

Human experience suggests
to sing words of promise from the soul,
means one has probably felt pain and sorrow in the soul, too.

The Angel Gabriel notes as much
in announcing to Mary that she would give birth to a child:
"A sword shall pierce your own soul, too."

O, how pierced we are.
Too much pierced.
Felt these days in
the invidiousness of racism;
callous contempt of human life;
the hollow intoxication of revenge;
fanning of fires;
disregard for the vulnerable.
The soul of our society is pierced.
Honorable police and their families, pierced.
Teenagers and fathers and husbands and wives, pierced.
The soul of our nation, the soul of humanity, pierced.

Which is precisely where we find God this night.
Carried by Mary.
Cradled in a manger.
Crucified on a cross.
Out in Brooklyn
And on Staten Island and Ferguson.
In that schoolhouse in Pakistan and among students in Mexico.
Anywhere humanity is pierced
—with Mary, is pierced—
God is there, too.

God with us.
With this promise.
God fills the hungry.
God overcomes evil.
God sends wrongdoing away.
God raises from the dead.

Precisely when no good seems possible,
when our soul is pierced,
God speaks to us this word of promise,
this word of light in a weary world,
this word of hope in bleakness,
this word of God with us when it seems no one else is,
this word made flesh we call Emmanuel
that faces death and all death's ways
and proclaims life.

This Word that prompts our soul to sing.
Sing the greatness of the Lord.

Dear friends,

If you, like me, long for such life for our world.
For ourselves.
For our neighbors.

Pray for it.
Sing of it.
Allow it to work in you.
Take flesh in you.
With absolute confidence
that God is doing such great things.
And by all means,
with Mary,
let your soul cry out.
For the world is about to turn.
Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York