“The Mighty One has done great things for me…He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”
Luke 1: 49, 52
Read Luke 1:46b-55
This fall I am teaching an Honors Writing Seminar featuring J.R.R. Tolkien. In his fantasy tale The Lord of the Rings, students see that Tolkien, a devout Catholic, created his “savior” character as a powerless hobbit who challenges the great and evil Lord Sauron. It is not the powerful, heroic figures who take the main stage in this quest, but humble Frodo Baggins. We find Tolkien’s biblical inspiration for his “upside down” kingdom in Mary’s Song, the Magnificat.
When Mary visits Elizabeth, her cousin prophesies about the child in her womb. Mary responds with a hymn—the Magnificat—in which she emphasizes the great reversal that will come through this child. The proud, the rich, will be laid low and the humble, the poor, will be lifted up.
We are reminded that the world’s order is not God’s order. We should not be dazzled by society’s powerful ones, but pay attention to those with little status who have pure and open hearts. The child, born of the young and trusting Mary, the carpenter’s son without a place to lay his head, would be the one, like Frodo, to lead the world to rejoicing. While the world’s powers raged, the brave defeat of evil would be unfolding in a barren corner—Frodo in the depths of Mordor, Jesus on the cross at Golgotha.
The song of Mary, the “lowly handmaiden,” the vessel for the One who will save the weary world, is a generous, joyful response to God’s plan. It is a model for us all.
Loving God, remind us what tremendous transformation is happening quietly, through the kingdom work of ordinary people—yes, even through us—and give us joy along the way.