The Final Advent Candle to be lit this weekend is named Love. The text is Luke 1:46-55. This passage is famously called The Magnificat. It is the song Mary sang after her cousin Elizabeth praised her for believing God’s Promise.
Here’s the interesting thing about this Advent Candle and this passage: The Word love does not appear in the text.
How is this a passage about love?
If anything, this is a passage that seems to say that God hates rich and powerful people and only loves the poor and lowly people. I have, in fact, been accused of preaching that message in the past (I never said those words, but a passage like this makes rich and powerful people nervous).
It is difficult to watch the turbulent and disturbing things that are happening among our own rich and powerful people in this country and not want to pull out this passage as a giant club of social justice.
“See!” we want to scream, “read these words, spoken by the blessed mother herself:
[God] has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51–53 NRSV)
Richard Rohr’s meditations yesterday and today speak well to this tension. He calls for a third way that moves between the power struggles we experience in the myriad divisions in our society: rich/poor, privileged white/people of color, liberal/conservative, etc.
He says, “Over the years, I met many social activists who were doing excellent social analysis and advocating for crucial justice issues, but they were not working from an energy of love. They were still living out of their false self with the need to win, the need to look good—attached to a superior, politically correct self-image.”
An energy of love. What might that be?
Rohr goes on to say,
Untransformed liberals often lack the ability to sacrifice the self or create foundations that last. They can’t let go of their own need for change and cannot stand still in a patient, compassionate, and humble way. It is no surprise that Jesus prayed not just for fruit, but “fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Untransformed conservatives, on the other hand, tend to idolize anything that lasts, but then avoid the question, “Is it actually bearing any fruit?” This is the perennial battle between idealism and pragmatism, or romanticism and rationalism.
The last time I reflected on this text I referenced this image. At first glance this seems like it resonates with Mary’s song. Yet, notice who is the source of action here.
Rohr continues in today’s meditation,
Contemplation is radical in that it goes to “the root” (radix) of all our problems. Contemplation is the heart of the matter because it changes consciousness and thus transforms how we enter into communion with God, with ourselves, with the moment. Without the contemplative mind, all our talk about and action for social change and justice can actually do more harm than good. In working for social change, we all get angry, disillusioned, alienated, and hurt. We make mistakes, we don’t agree with others, we discover that change takes longer than we’d hoped and the solution isn’t as simple as we’d imagined. I have seen far too many give up, grow bitter, or just nurse a quiet cynicism when they can’t hold disappointment with a contemplative, nondual consciousness. Action needs to be accompanied by contemplation for us to stay on the journey for the long haul. Otherwise, we’re just constantly searching for victims and perpetrators, and eventually we start playing the victim or perpetrator ourselves.”
Here’s the truth. God loves everyone: rich/poor, white/black/yellow/brown, conservative/liberal, etc. It breaks God’s heart when God’s children think that owning land or having a particular skin color or particular genitalia or a particular number on an IQ test or particular letters after one’s name makes one person more valuable than another.
A Deeper Love breathes deeply, sinks into the depths of God’s presence in all things, and sees God in the person on the other side of the divide.
Mary’s song magnifies the only source of power and action in the universe. God brings down the false sense of power and source of arrogance, and exalts those who have been duped into thinking they are nothing. Notice the directions: down from a false sense of elevation and up from a false sense of suppression. We are brought back to equality.
All of these disparities are illusions, and it is only when we tap into a deeper love that we will be able to find God’s peace and justice instead of just revolting against one power regime and replacing it with another.
God’s deep love and peace be upon you this day, dear reader.