Saturday, June 26, 2021

Matt and the Magnificat

So Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has been philandering, unfaithful; and he has been hypocritical to boot, imposing stringent restrictions on the rest of the populace which he felt no pressure to obey himself.  It's all extremely familiar.  I've read a few people suggesting that this is what you get with the Tories; of course it is.  It's also what you get with everyone else.  Betrayal of marriage vows is not a left/right issue, but a sin issue.  And then again, it is human nature to abuse power.  That's why so much of the condemnation of Hancock rings slightly hollow - hypocrites pointing out a man's hypocrisy.  He was in a position to get away with it; that's the main difference between him and us.

There's a great deal that could be said about Hancock's actions and the societal reaction - including pointing out, as many Christians have, that the outrage has all been about social distancing rules being broken, rather than the (rather more important) breaking of marriage vows.  But I've been particularly thinking about the abuse of power, and the way that is addressed by Mary's song, the Magnificat.

He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.

This is the virgin Mary's joyful response to the knowledge that the baby she is miraculously bearing is the Messiah, the Holy One of God.  In this baby, God has shown his strength; he has scattered the proud; he has cast down the mighty.  And yet - in Mary's world, throughout Mary's lifetime, the proud and mighty continued to rule, and to abuse their power, and to get away with it.  Just as they have done for the 2000 years since.  They don't seem to have been scattered or cast down.

There is something wonderful here.  God has shown his strength in such a way that the strong in this world cannot see it.  He has scattered the proud in such a way that they, being proud, do not know it.  He has cast down the mighty from their thrones in such a way that from their thrones they continue to scoff.  And yet these things have so certainly happened that Mary sings of them in the past tense, even when the life and work of the baby in her womb has barely begun.

The proud and powerful in this world will always think they can get away with it.  Mary's song testifies to the fact that they have not got away with it.  They are seen, judged, cast down.  The arc of history, as far as I can tell, does not bend toward justice.  But justice nevertheless is done, and will one day be shown to be done.

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