Monthly Archives: January 2021

The Magnificat Says Mary Knew

I’ve been studying the Greek 101 course on The Great Courses, off and on. (Not very diligently. Basically, whenever I’ve got enough brainpower.)

Not long after the bit where you realize you can understand the first five lines of the Iliad, the second episode about dactylic hexameter includes a portion of Luke’s Gospel, where Gabriel speaks to the Virgin Mary. And yesterday, thinking about it, I noticed something that connects to the Magnificat.

St. Gabriel says about the son that Mary is being asked to bear, “He will be great.” (Literally, “Houtos estai megas,” He will be big/great/important.)

Some people say that Mary couldn’t have known Who her son was. But St. Elizabeth knew right away. The Spirit of the Lord came upon her, and she cried out in a loud voice (“krauge megale“) that Mary was “the mother of my Lord.”

Well, obviously the Holy Spirit had done a lot more quality time with Mary, by overshadowing her, and God Himself was right there inside! Prophecy might occur!

So what does Mary say about her unborn son?

Megalynei he psyche mou ton Kyrion.” (Literally, My soul makes the Lord big, or My soul displays/proclaims that the Lord is big.)

Mary is clearly alluding to her promised son being the Lord Himself! And then she underlines it, saying as a pregnant woman:

“Hoti epoiesen moi megala ho Dynatos.” (The Mighty One has done big things to/at me.) Like in her womb. Getting big.

But wait, there’s more! In Luke 1:58, after Mary had gone home and Elizabeth had given birth, the neighbors and relatives of Elizabeth heard that: “…hoti emegalynen Kyrios to eleos autou met autes, kai synechairon aute.” (“….that the Lord was magnifying His Mercy with her, and they rejoiced with her.” And notice Gabriel’s greeting being echoed with “chaire.”) So literally, the double meaning was that the Lord had been staying at her house, working on getting big!

Probably this is old news to a lot of you, but I’ve never heard it pointed out before. (And this allusion pattern is probably why some scholars are super-anxious to deny Mary’s composition of the Magnificat — because it shows that she understood what was going on, and was a Bible-contemplating poet as well as a prophetess.)

It would make sense for Luke to back up Mary’s allusions with at least one of his own, because that would show his audience that he also understood what was going on. It also rounds out the story, by alluding to elements of the Annunciation at the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and name.

This will probably be a better-sounding Marian argument if you say “great” instead of “big.”

UPDATE: The Greek word “megas” is used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew “gadol,” great (or big!). The Greek word “dynatos” is used to translate Hebrew “gibbor,” which can mean “mighty,” “the Mighty One” (as in Zephaniah 3:17), or “warrior.”

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St. Marisol?

This is a common Spanish name that doesn’t get much pop culture explanation. It’s really “Maria Soledad,” a name honoring the “Virgen de la Soledad,” the “Virgin of Solitude” or “of Loneliness.” This is a title for Mary as she was on Holy Saturday, mourning her Son. One of the interesting Spanish features is that they show Mary wearing a rosary with a prominent cross, so that the rosary draws attention to her long-empty belly. She is alone.

(Our Lady of Sorrows is the more common title in non-Hispanic countries. That’s where the name “Dolores” comes from.)

There’s a lot of devotion to Mary under the title of “Soledad,” especially in France and Spain, and in Mexico. It was associated closely with the women of the royal families, who often survived their sons and husbands. In Madrid, there’s also a miraculous painting on cloth of this version of Our Lady, “la Virgen de la Paloma.”

The Paloma Virgin is a neighborhood miracle. In 1787, some kids found the discarded painting (which is a little smaller than a paperback book) and started tossing it around. One of the neighbor ladies on Paloma St., Isabela Tintero, was scandalized and confiscated the little painting. She took it home, cleaned it, got it framed, and put it on her front door. Then she started using it as her prayer station for saying the Rosary, and other neighbors did too.

And then people’s prayers started getting granted.

Word of the miracles got around, and the little side street got flooded with people praying. Mrs. Tintero gave up her house to be an unofficial chapel for the painting, but they still couldn’t fit everyone into the house. The locals built a real chapel. They founded a big festival on August 15, along with the Feast of the Assumption. There was a famous operetta/zarzuela using the festival as a backdrop. And so on. She is the patron saint of Madrid’s firefighters as well.

But it’s not all funsies, being a shrine. The parish suffered five martyrdoms during the Spanish Civil War, which are currently part of a new sainthood cause. All the martyrs were killed for being part of Catholic Action, a club for supporting Catholic identity and teaching, or the Asociacion Catolica de Propagandistas, an apologetics and teaching club. There were two priests: the Servants of God Fr. Jose Bermudez Tome and Fr. Andres Rodriguez Perdiguero; and three lay members of Catholic Action: Marcelino Panizo Celorio, Marcelino Panizo Rodriguez, and Fernando Estevanez Teran.

Yesterday, tragically, there was some kind of explosion at an adjoining Caritas home for elderly people and for visiting priests, on ground owned by the parish. Four people were killed: two still-unidentified passersby in the street, a 35 year old parishioner named David Santos who leaves behind a wife and four kids, and a 36 year old priest, Fr. Ruben Perez Ayala, the parochial vicar, who had only been ordained for a year. Debris hit the roof of the church and the back courtyard, but it’s otherwise okay. None of the old people were killed. They think it was a gas explosion. Please pray for all the dead and for their families.

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St. Taylor?

For all you young men, young ladies, Taylor Swift, and Taylor Marshall — there’s Blessed Hugh Taylor, martyr.

In fact, he was the first person martyred by Bad Queen Bess under the law naming all priests as traitors, as opposed to claiming that specific priests had done specific non-priest traitorous things. We don’t know much about him, but we know he came from Durham, snuck out of England, studied at Rheims, and became a missionary priest. He was caught or betrayed soon after re-entering England. Then he was hung, drawn, and quartered on November 26, 1585, in the city of York. (Blessed Marmaduke Bowes died on the same day.)

But there’s another Hugh Taylor, who is probably a saint, but who doesn’t seem to have had any cause. This Hugh Taylor was a Carthusian monk who entered the London Charterhouse in 1518. He was a “Conversus” lay brother who did the work to help the other monks live their life of strict prayer and silence, as hermits within a monastery. But he was known to be not only charitable, but also a man whose prayers were answered favorably by the Lord, who had visions and dreams, who made true prophecies, and who was consulted by everyone in need, including people who didn’t like him.

One day Brother Hugh was in his room when Jesus came to talk to him, in a full apparition. They talked and talked, and then Hugh remembered that he was supposed to meet one of the other monks in the workroom, and help him with a project. So Hugh begged Our Lord to excuse him until he could come back, and went and kept his promise.

And when he came back to his room, Jesus was there, and told him how pleased He was that Hugh had gone to help his brother — more pleased than He had been with anything Hugh had done before.

Brother Hugh Taylor died on September 30, 1575. Many of his Carthusian brothers would go on to martyrdom, including the Prior, St. John Houghton.

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Still Hanging Out with Apponius

Yeah, I need to finish Beatus. But I just feel really discouraged, because a lot of my early notes went missing.

Anyway… I’m working on Apponius and Song of Songs, which has always been one of my other favorite books of the Bible. Everybody knows that this is a book about God’s relationship with His people (ie, the Jewish people, and thus with the continued and enlarged qahal, the Church). But apparently everybody on the Internet wants to talk about it as simple Hebrew love poetry, or simple stuff about men and women. Because that’s the “literal meaning.”

Look. It’s not the “literal meaning” if the text is full of Biblical allusions about God and Israel. The literal meaning is “I’m writing a sacred poem about God and Israel, but turning up the marriage analogy to 11.” And that’s why God lent the author inspiration, and inspired everyone to put it in the Bible.

Jewish synagogues chant this thing ON PASSOVER. A lot of them chant it EVERY SATURDAY at certain parts of the year. They’re not singing “Girl, You Know It’s True” or “The Star of the County Down,” okay?

(Oh, and spoiler alert. Beautiful women do not appear to 18th century Irish poets and beg to be rescued. It’s Ireland. It was always Ireland. It was never about girls and poets.)

So I did finally find a Jewish video series on the actual factual literal meaning, from Chabad on their “Jewish TV” channel. A lot of nice nuggets that… um… well, deep Jewish theology is usually easily transferable to the Church, Jesus, etc.

For one thing, we’re told that the rabbis said that the name “Solomon” in this text was to be interpreted as the Name of the Almighty. Well, “Solomon” means “Peace.”

And of course, “He is our Peace.” (Eph. 2:14) He’s also the Son of David, and the Divine Wisdom, so calling him Solomon is exactly true. And… yeah. I think we know where this is going.

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Another Rule of Thumb Explanation

Victorian Farm: Christmas Special has a segment on milling with a windmill, and the miller says that you adjust the gap between your grindstones according to the feel of the ground meal coming out. Allegedly, you catch the meal between your finger and thumb, and then determine the adjustments by “rule of thumb.”

Still think it’s a carpenter term for using the thumb as a rough ruler, but milling works too. I’ve also heard that it’s a way to check beer temperatures.

The “size of stick to beat your wife” is a pretty ridiculous legend, as the only measuring story I’ve found about that was in Islamic law. And I seriously doubt medieval English people cared what sharia law thought. Oddly, though, there are some late stories about English judges who allegedly decided cases based on the false etymology! So yeah, urban legends are dangerous things….

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Explanation of the Day

“Nut brown ale does not contain any nuts.”

OTOH, for everybody who keeps claiming that “nut brown skin” and “nut brown hair” are descriptions of black people in medieval England… the brewery describes nut brown ale as being “dark amber” in color. Basically, it’s beer-colored; it’s just a slightly deeper reddish brownish yellow. So anybody with a decent tan, or someone with reddish blondish brown hair (as opposed to mouse or dark brown). Clearly the nut in question wasn’t a walnut, because “walnut” is a separate descriptor, associated with walnut shells and walnut-stained hands.

I can’t help you with “brown as a berry,” but apparently juniper and cedar berries are brown.

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