The story of the circumstances that led to the birth of the great prophet and priest Samuel is one of the most memorable and profound in the Old Testament.
Hannah, who for years was childless, and though beloved by her husband, she suffered scorn and derision because a childless woman was in the culture of her time, considered to be nearly worthless and at best pitiful.
Finally, she conceives a child, a son, whom she names Samuel, and understanding that her only beloved son is a gift from God, out of thanksgiving for the gift, she offers back to God what is most precious to herself- Samuel, the very son that God had given to her!
She offers her son in service to the Lord, leaving him in the care of the priests who served the Lord God at his sanctuary in Shiloh.
This extraordinary gesture should shock us and if it doesn’t, you did not listen attentively to today’s Scripture.
Samuel would become one of the greatest of all the Israelite prophets. Hannah foresaw this and knew that he could not be limited to the narrow space of domestic and worldly concerns. If her son was to accomplish the mission for which he was born, the mission that God had given him that would fulfill the purpose of his life, she would have to set aside her own feelings of attachment and let him go. Her willingness to place God’s will above her own, her son’s purpose above her own needs, would be the sacrifice through which God would begin to work wonders that would save his chosen people from their sins and set them on a path of goodness and truth.
This incredible story is presented to us by the Church today as a foreshadowing of Christ’s relationship with his own Holy Mother. The Christ-child would be given to his Mother as a gift, a gift that she would in turn offer to God in thanksgiving to what she had received.
For those who are familiar with the story of Hannah in the Old Testament Book of Samuel, you will remember that she celebrates the birth of her son with a song, a canticle of praise to God for what he has for her and will accomplish through her son.
The Mother of God echoes Hannah’s song in her own song of praise that we heard today from the Gospel of Luke. Evidently, the song of Hannah would have been familiar to a faithful daughter of Israel like the Blessed Virgin Mary as the words of her own canticle of praise resonant with Hannah’s song.
The words of the Mother of God’s song of praise are frequently set to music and most of these musical expressions employ pleasant sounding notes and can be quite lovely, they might have the unfortunate tendency to distract us from the revolutionary power of the words.
The words of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s “Magnificat” are essentially a battle cry, the expression of a warrior, and they praise a God who comes into the world to fight on behalf of a people long help captive by the dark powers of sin, death and the devil. Christ’s Mother testifies that God is coming to set a world gone wrong back right, and those who have conspired with dark powers for their own gain will have much to lose when God in Christ comes.
Christ does not come into the world simply to affirm us as we are or the world as it is, but to transform a world that has resisted God’s purposes, and that transformation begins with each one of us. The great song of the Blessed Virgin Mary praises God, who comes into the world, and into our lives, to deal with all the dark powers within us and within the world that oppose him- God in Christ comes to us, and to the world, to set things right!