1 Sm 1:24-28; Res: 1Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8; Lk 1:46-56
“O Rex Gentium: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”
The King of all the nations is the One the nations have not yet recognized. Everyone powerful upon the face of the earth has the power to swallow up enemies and always be victorious. Yet, the true joy of every human heart, the true keystone of the mighty arch of man comes to save those whom he has fashioned from the dust of the earth. The King of all the nations comes to reverse the inevitable tide of history and turn upside down the expectations of all who are wise in the ways of power and might. The mighty ones are handed broken bows, and the weak ones are wrapped in strength. This is only the beginning! The well nourished have to struggle to put bread on the table, and the malnourished are more than satiated. Still there’s more to come! Those thought barren become fruitful, and the mother of many looses those she has. Is anyone safe and secure? Even those thought invincible parish; those who seem ageless deteriorate. The humble of the earth are lifted high, and those left for lost on the dung heap are raised to dignity. These are ranked among the respected and honored for generations to come. Such is the rejoicing of the humble Hannah who was thought by the Priest Eli to be a ne’er-do-well. Hannah shares this day the great rejoicing of the unwed-mother-to-be, Mary, about whom many had not a kind thought or word to speak. In these humble servants the King of all the nations is glorified and his true power is revealed. Out of love, Hannah gives her longed for son to serve the Lord. Out of love, Mary gives her virginal womb over to the Eternal Son who takes our humanity from his mother. The power of Love is the power of the One for whom we long await. His power changes everything from the depths of the human heart that is willing to receive him. Still, we do not know Him.
The Priest Eli thought he knew God. He thought he could let his sons get away with all their shenanigans and the LORD would not take notice. He closed his eyes to the way they treated God’s people and the sacrifices they brought to the House of the LORD. They were unjust and self-serving, to say the least. This failure of the priesthood was at least partly do to Eli’s failure to be the kind of father who showed tough love to his sons. Instead of correcting them and punishing their offenses, he just looked the other way; perhaps, hoping that they would grow up and stop playing around at being priests of the LORD. However, Eli wasn’t hesitant to correct Hanna when she came into the House of the LORD and spoke from her heart, pleading for a son. The rest of the story tells us that Eli saw her standing in prayer moving her lips but no sound could be heard. He thought that she was drunk and told her to go sober up before coming to pray. Hanna was not afraid to tell him what was really happening; she clarified his mistaken judgment without hesitation. Not only did the LORD hear and respond to Hanna’s prayer that night in front of the Priest Eli; He gave her the inspiration to offer Samuel the service of the LORD all the days of his life. The priest-prophet Samuel was more than a replacement for Eli and his unfaithful sons; he was just what the people of God needed at the time. Samuel brought back order and purity to the House of the LORD. Eli was not a loving father to his sons nor to the people, but he did receive Samuel and guide him during his first encounter with the LORD. Eli, the priest, was mistaken about his sons and about Hanna, but the LORD used him to bring a new prophet to Israel and a new priest to his people. The sacrificial generosity of the mother Hanna, points forward to the New Eve, Mary, Mother of all the Living. It is her generosity of heart that gives birth to her song of praise in today’s gospel. The Magnificat, the Song of Mary, sung daily at Vespers throughout the church invites all lowly servants to rejoice in God, the savior.
Hanna’s song of rejoicing is fulfilled in Mary’s song of rejoicing. Hanna sings, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in my God.” Mary sings, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Such heart felt rejoicing does not remain in the past in the silent pages of history. Indeed, we, who play the Advent and Christmas CDs, and join in the local ecumenical singing of Handel’s Messiah, and gather around the Christmas tree caroling till we can sing no more, give voice to the same rejoicing that echoes through the centuries and all over the globe. Hanna’s song is our song; Mary’s song is our song. Their song is our song because their joy is our joy! Indeed, we have all been given a song to sing and a role to play in the great and might things the LORD is doing in our world. The LORD shows the strength of his arm; he scatters the proud; he casts down the mighty. The LORD lifts up the lowly; he fills the hungry with a feast; he comes to the help of his servants in every generation. The promise the LORD made to Abraham and to all his children is fulfilled in the Virgin Mary’s womb. He has promised to come and stay with us. He has promised to come and turn our world upside down, and inside out. This promise the LORD fulfills in our day in filling our lonely hearts, our empty lives, and our inadequate plans with his love, presence and wisdom. We are blessed, and because of us our world is blessed, again and again, in every generation. Such is the transformation that happens for those who become what they eat, the Body and Blood of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.