When I teach the gospels to my seventh graders, we often make lists of the things that make each gospel distinct. For example, Matthew uses the literary form of midrash to show numerous connections between Jesus and the Old Testament promises God had made to the Israelites. Mark is the shortest gospel, and also all the cool Messianic secret references like “Son of Man”. John isn’t synoptic, and brings a very poetic point of view to the story of salvation. For Luke, we always include the line Gospel: The Musical.
In the first two chapters of Luke, any time someone is super happy, they sing or speak a “canticle”. Mary, Zechariah and Simeon all sing the praises of a God who keeps his promises, and these songs become a huge part of the prayer of the church in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Mary’s canticle occurs at the Visitation, when she goes to stay with her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. When the two women meet, Elizabeth immediately sees what is going on, and John the Baptist leaps in her womb. Her joyful greeting causes Mary to respond in joyous praise, just like a heroine would do in a musical, and this is the second time Mary speaks in the Bible. Mary’s song of praise is called the Magnificat, because it starts with the words “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The Magnificat is one of my favorite scriptures in the whole world, and you can find the entire text in Luke 1:46-55.
Here are some ideas for a week based on Mary’s “magnificat”:
Read the Visitation story in the Bible. Students could read the scripture and study it using the Lectio Divina scripture study method. I have a pre-made version in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but you could easily do as a whole class bible study or prayer journal activity.
Learn the song “Holy is His Name”. This is one of my favorite songs, written by John Michael Talbot. You can watch it on Youtube here.
Use imagainative prayer to put yourself “inside” the Visitation. You can read more about praying this way in last week’s post on Fiat. But some questions for imaginative prayer for this scene include: Who are you in the scene? Mary? Elizabeth? Someone just watching the meeting? How do you feel as you hear Mary’s song of praise? What does Mary and Elizabeth’s friendship remind you of?
Learn about the Liturgy of the Hours. The Magnificat is part of the Evening prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours (which is also called the Divine Office). You could look up the evening prayers for that day (I use the Laudate App) and pray those as an end of the day prayer in your classroom, or send the prayers home for students to pray with their families.
Help local women in crisis pregnancy situations. Mary’s first instinct after learning of her own pregnancy was to go help someone else. This could be a great opportunity for students to reach out in service to your local community. Our diocese has a program called Prepares to help expecting mothers, and there are various ways students can get involved to help. One is to do a drive for supplies to donate to a specifc mother. Another would be to make cards and letters encouraging pregnant women and let them know that your class is rooting for them and praying for them.
Even more Mary and May ideas coming soon!