A Role Model for the Virgin Mary

A meditation on Hannah’s contribution to the Magnificat . . .

Mary as a child, with her parents Joachim and Anna

Sometimes we forget that the saints do not arrive to us from heaven, fully-formed. Before Moses parted the sea, he was a little baby in a basket.  Before David slew Goliath, he was an unknown little shepherd boy. And before Mary became the mother of God, she was a humble, young Jewish girl, with godly parents, cousins, and friends. And just like any other young girl, she needed good role models to encourage her toward positive spiritual growth.

Her most obvious role models were her dad and mom, the saints Joachim and Anna. They both set a good example for their daughter, and they raised her up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord. Mary was also able to look up to her older cousin, Elizabeth. Scripture tells us that Elizabeth was righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Her living relatives were not her only role-models. The Virgin Mary also looked up to the godly women she discovered in the pages of Scripture. As a young Jewish girl, she would have been familiar with the stories of Old Testament heroines such as Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Ruth, Hannah, Judith, and Esther. These holy women provided guidance, by setting godly examples for young women to follow.

I have long been intrigued by the close connections shared between Hannah and Mary. They both are godly women who conceived holy children in miraculous ways.

After years of barrenness, Hannah fervently prayed for God to give her a child. He heard her prayer, opened her womb, and granted her to become the mother of Samuel, one of Israel’s greatest prophets.

As a virgin, Mary was approached by an archangel who told her she would bear a child.  She willingly accepted his words and invited the miracle. God regarded her lowliness, and granted her to become the mother of the Lord . . . God incarnate.

St. Hannah the Prophetess

Hannah’s response was a lovely prayer. Mary’s response was also lovely, and it closely resembles Hannah’s prayer:

  • Hannah’s heart is strong in the Lord. (1 Sam. 2:1)
  • Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord. (Luke 1:46)
  • Hannah rejoices in her salvation. (1 Sam. 2:1)
  • Mary rejoices in her Savior. (Luke 1:47)
  • Hannah praises the holiness of God. (1 Sam. 2:2)
  • Mary praises the holiness of God’s name. (Luke 1:49)
  • Hannah shuns pride and arrogance. (1 Sam. 2:3)
  • Mary says God regards lowliness. (Luke 1:48)

St. Mary the Mother of God

  • Hannah praises God for feeding the hungry,
    and for emptying those who were formerly full.
    (1 Sam. 2:5)
  • Mary praises God for feeding the hungry,
    and for causing hunger among the rich.
    (Luke 1:53)
  • Hannah praises God for exalting poor beggars,
    causing them to inherit the thrones of princes.
    (1 Sam. 2:8)
  • Mary praises God for exalting the lowly,
    and for casting the mighty off their thrones.
    (Luke 1:52)
  • Hannah says the most important thing is to know the Lord. (1 Sam. 2:10)
  • Mary says that the Lord’s mercy is reserved for those who fear him. (Luke 1:50)
  • Hannah prophesies the coming of Christ, the Lord’s anointed. (1 Sam. 2:10)
  • Mary’s entire prayer is in response to Christ’s coming, in her own womb.

Just think . . . over 1000 years before Christ, Hannah had already prayed the prayer which would one day inspire Mary to pray the Magnificat.

This teaches us that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is not always a bolt from the blue, disconnected from the past. Instead, God routinely works through our families, through
our worship, and through our role models. God did not wait until Mary prayed, to inspire the Magnificat. Rather, God started much earlier, when He inspired Hannah’s prayer.

He knew that 1000 years hence, a little Jewish girl named Mary would learn about Hannah, and would look up to her as a godly role model. Then, at just the right time, Hannah’s words would grace Mary’s lips.  This is how the inspiration of the Holy Spirit works . . . in an organic, long-term, familial way.

It is encouraging when we are given opportunities to pray with our children, teach them the Scriptures, and worship with them during the Divine Liturgy.  If God is able to reach through a millennium, using Hannah’s example to inspire the heart of Mary, then He is able to do the same for us and for our children. The spiritual seeds we plant are watered by our prayers, and the Holy Spirit will cause them to sprout at just the right time.

This chart demonstrates many parallels between Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s Magnificat. Click on the chart to see it in larger print:

Hannah’s influence on Mary’s Magnificat – (((click on image to see larger print)))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sermon was preached on Sunday morning, December 4, 2011, at Christ the King Orthodox Church, in Omaha, Illinois, by Joseph M. Gleason.

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About Dn Joseph Gleason

I am a contributor to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity, theology, and philosophy, written from the diaspora of North America. I am also the Deacon of Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with seven children and one lovely wife.
This entry was posted in Christian Education, Dn. Joseph Gleason, Orthodox Homilies, The Orthodox Christian Family. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Role Model for the Virgin Mary

  1. Pingback: 5-Year-Old Twins Quoting Scripture | The Orthodox Life

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