My Soul Rejoices: December 17, 2022

My Soul Rejoices

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” – Luke 1:39-45

Christmas Eve, 1974
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Huntington, L.I., N.Y.

The candlelit sanctuary was silent as night as I walked to the center of the altar robed in blue. I was escorted by Richard Ohlenberg, Joseph to my Mary. We were surrounded by angels and shepherds and wise men as we took our place in the age-old pantomime of the living crèche. Baby Sam Swisher was my Jesus, and as I took him in my arms, I rose and began to sing in a trembling soprano: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

It was a moment in and out of time: in time, that I was a senior in high school applying to elite women’s colleges with a long-time boyfriend and plans for a future; and out of time, that I was touched by grace, chosen to represent the Mother of God, Mary-in-absentia singing alone.

I cannot begin to know what Mary felt, at 15, to hear the words that she was to become the mother of the Christ Child. But now, all these decades later, as a mother and grandmother, it is no less terrifying/thrilling remembering when I was first told that I was with child (or when my daughters broke the news to me that they were expecting). My very soul singing! To bring into this world a helpless baby to love, nurture, train, and discipline to then—after all those hours and days and weeks and years (and skinned knees and tuna fish sandwiches and help with homework and drying tears)—to send them out into the world without us is life’s greatest joy and sorrow.

But Mary bore the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow of all. I am humbled to have had her voice for one brief moment, that moment of moments when she declares her joy to all the world.

I pray that I am able to raise my voice in tandem with Mary’s, for as long as I draw breath.

Help me, Lord, to magnify you daily in my words and actions. Amen.
-Ashley Sweeney