Monday, July 6, 2009


The Virgin Mary is a Magnificent Woman. She is the woman par excellence. In the life of the Church, she has always been seen as magnificent. Why? Because of her magnanimity.

Now there's a word you don't hear every day. It means largeness of soul; greatness of spirit. The ability to remain at peace in the midst of great trouble. The Church - packed shoulder to shoulder with the "poor banished children of Eve" - has always looked to this New Eve, Mary, as to a beacon in the midst of life's storms. Here was a woman who stood strong. Stood in fact at the crossroads where time and eternity, love and hate, war and peace met - at the Cross. And the sparks from that conflagration are still flying. They have been catching souls and burning them with the fire of love for God since Mary's stand!

Now, not only the Church but the pop culture at large can get a little glimmer of this Magnificent Heart of Mary. We can hear a little of her heart's cry to belong to Love, and not just to herself, beneath the folds of a flowing melody of U2's called, aptly, "Magnificent."

In the video linked above, a Middle-Eastern town appears, and the band plays it's rumbling tribute to a person who was "born to sing." In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Bono admits that the person is in fact the Virgin Mary.

"Magnificent was inspired by the Magnificat, a passage from the Gospel of Luke in the voice of the Virgin Mary... There's this theme running through the album of surrender and devotion and all the things I find really difficult," Bono says.

I was born... I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise…

Wasn't this Mary's great YES? In the encounter with the Angel Gabriel, she thought only of the Song that God had always wanted to sing for Israel (she knew it from her study of the Torah and the Prophets). Mary would sing that Song of Songs, and she still sings it, while we too often send notes of selfish discord into Love's melody.

In the music video, the desert town is wrapped in long, mysterious white veils. Entire buildings are completely covered! Only slowly as the song progresses do these veils give way to the dance of wind and rise up into blue skies. A powerful image of reverence, mystery, revelation, and liberation.

The song reveals further how the heart of the Immaculate was truly "pierced by a sword" as Simeon predicted of Mary in the Gospel of Luke. "Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted... and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:34-35)

Bono, who wrote this song, and who writes most of the lyrics to U2's music, sings:

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

So Mary's great yes, the lifting of the veil of her heart to God, involves a great risk - that of being wounded, crushed by sorrows. She models the path ahead for us. Magnificence comes shining through suffering. It's brilliance is heightened by the darkness it has come through, the dark valley that Psalm 23 points to as the necessary path for every follower of Christ.

But in the end there is rejoicing.... it was a joyful noise…

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent.... Magnificent

May we sing the lyrics to this song today, mindful of the majesty of Mary, that was bestowed on her because of her humility, her openness, her willingness to bear "such a scar" as the suffering of her Son on the Cross.


  1. I have found myself returning to this post and this song time and time again, and both the song and analysis never lose that same richness and depth that I had felt during and after the first reading/listening! Thanks so much for the post!!

  2. Thank you Christine! We appreciate your following the blog too!

  3. I am impressed! What a wonderful post! I am in my sixties, and have been a follower of U2 for twenty years, seen them twice. As a fairly new Catholic and former Protestant, Bono's courage to speak of God comes from his heart, and his talent has been God's vehicle!