Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is “With Mary let my soul rejoice” by David Mowbray. It is actually a paraphrase of the Magnificat, usually used at evening prayer but very appropriate for today because this is the festival of the Annunciation (i.e. the conception of Jesus) to which the Magnificat was Mary’s response.
The enduring popularity of this scriptural song is that it celebrates the way God intervenes in human affairs to put injustices right. The ‘strong arm and great power’ of the Lord are not used to ensure victory for one tribe over another, as Israel found out repeatedly, for God was with them if they followed his laws but allowed them to be defeated if they broke them and promoted injustice. The specific examples given in Mary’s song are (to use the words from this hymn version) that “the proud he will disown; the meek and humble he exalts… the rich our God will send away and feed the hungry poor; the arms of love remain outstretched at mercy’s open door”. But although these are universal principles, they are linked to God’s promise made over a thousand years earlier to the Patriarchs, that Abraham’s descendants would benefit from God’s blessing, if they kept to his ways.
The principles are the same today as they ever were: Christians (and anyone else who believes in God and seeks his blessing) must strive for justice and fairness in the world, not only by living justly ourselves but taking positive action in God’s name for the benefit of the humble, meek and poor, and to prevent the rich and proud from prospering at the expense of others. Like Jesus and the prophets before him, those who do so risk incurring human wrath for doing so, but equally receive God’s blessing. Those saints who take this risk (think especially perhaps of the late, blessed Oscar Romero whose feast day was yesterday) deserve to be celebrated in the final words of the hymn: “with Mary let the world rejoice and praise God’s holy name!”