Advent is the time when we sing with Mary. It is the time of Magnificat, of reversal and rejoicing. We are saved by God’s encounter with us, by God’s coming to be present, face to face. Mary is the exemplar of this encounter: ‘he has looked with favor upon the lowliness of his servant’ (v. 48). ‘Lowliness’ is not an expression of Mary’s interior humility, though without doubt, in this too she is an exemplar. Lowliness here, as it often is elsewhere in Scripture, is a description of her life situation–hence, the older rendering, ‘lowly estate.’ Mary was a poor woman, living a hard life of survival in a poor and forgotten village of a poor and occupied territory held by an aggressive and triumphalistic empire. God is not looking only on her heart but on her plight.
Oh, God of Mary, teach me to sing–for you have looked upon our lowliness, our poverty, our humiliation–and salvation is there, in the wondrous glory of your face.