“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:46–55 NLT)
This famous psalm from Mary – the Magnificat – is at once a reflection of history and a look forward toward the work of the Messiah, newly in her belly. It illustrates just how familiar Mary was with the story of God as it ran through history and the trajectory it would take in the ages yet to come.
If we assume Mary was a devout Jew, and everything we know about her seems to indicate she was, she would have recited the Shema every day, multiple times a day. The Shema – the central prayer to the Jewish faith – starts by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4–5, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” This is the same passage Jesus references when he is asked which commandment is the greatest.
Eugene Peterson talks about spiritual formation as being a similar process to a slow, steady drip of water hitting a rock after years and years. If we are the rocks, it is the habitual practices of our faith that slowly, steadily reshape us into the kind of people who more closely reflect the image of Jesus in our communities.
If Mary truly repeated the Shema day after day, year after year – if done with intention rather than for repetition’s sake alone – her concept of what it meant for her to love God would have likely grown over time, transforming into the kind of devotion that saw her graciously accepting a radical change to her planned life trajectory, writing psalms of praise to her God, and helping raise the Son of Man as he grew into adulthood.
Are there any habitual practices you can implement in your own life that might help form you through the living water of Christ?