With Mary let my soul rejoice

Th Annunciation, by J Kirk Richards

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!”

1 thought on “With Mary let my soul rejoice”

  1. This is the third time I’ve tried to write this – each time something comes to interrupt me, and I never get it finished.

    I applaud two things about the text: (i) David Mowbray manages to make the canticle distinctly shorter than the original without seeming to miss anything out – he is a master of selecting the key thoughts and not allowing the duplication of ideas in original to survive transcription into the metrical form; and (ii) instead of us all pretending to be Mary in using her words, David allows us to sing “with Mary” as her supporters, thus avoiding us having to wrestle with whether we call ourselves “his handmaid” or not. Writers could do with applying these principles when they try to paraphrase Benedictus too!

    I’m in two minds about Peter Moger’s tune. It’s very catchy, and makes the whole hymn very distinctive; and it has a strong sense of drive which moves one on and maintains a feeling of purpose. However, the rhythm of anticipating the last syllable of the odd-numbered lines is very hard to do consistently, and indeed causes problems with the combination “tstr” of consonants in the word “outstretched” (v3). I think I might have written the anticipation on the 6th syllable rather than the 8th syllable of all those lines – and I think congregations might have found that easier to sing.

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