Blogmas Day 3: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout (Canticle of the Turning)”

Hi everyone!

The next song I would like to introduce to you is hymn #100: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” or, “Canticle of the Turning.”This is one of those songs you really have to hear for yourself in order to appreciate. It has a beautiful Celtic melody and is so fun and upbeat.

This song was both written and arranged by Rory Cooney in 1990 and copyrighted by GIA Publications in 1990.

I want you to imagine a young woman twirling around in a lush green meadow playing the flute. Then someone joins her, adding a fiddle to the mix. The atmosphere is just joyous, jubilant, and lighthearted. Now imagine someone else vocalizing the following lyrics:

My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the one who waits.
You fixed your sight on the servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.

Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me.
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn. (Refrain)

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn. (Refrain)

Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God’s mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forbears heard
is the promise that holds us bound,
‘Til the spear and rod be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around. (Refrain)

Indeed, this is a song of joy. It is based off of Mary’s song of joy, the Magnificat, in which she sings praise to God for God’s choosing her to bear the Messiah Jesus (Luke 1:46-55).

This is one of my favorite songs, primarily because of the Irish melody. When I was growing up, I absolutely loved Irish music. For my generation, it was Celtic Woman and Celtic Thunder, despite having a very negligible amount of Irish ancestry. I still can’t explain why I loved that aspect of the culture, but I did–I still do.

But let’s move on to exegete the lyrics. This is a beautiful song of hope and justice. Mary is a young woman. I believe by now it might be canonically known, but Mary was a teenager. She must have been between thirteen and fifteen years old. This young woman–this girl–this child–was chosen to bear the Messiah. It was normal for girls of her age to be married and have children, but this added responsibility? Mary had no one to support her through this. She also had the additional stigma of being pregnant with a child that did not belong to her husband. Imagine her going up to her parents and saying, “I’m pregnant.” They must have rejoiced with her at first, like “Mazel Tov, Miriam!” But then she dropped the bomb on them: “It’s not Joseph’s. Actually, it’s a funny story. See, what had happened was, the Holy Spirit came to me, and–”

Yeah, I really wonder how that story went. With the exception of her relative Elizabeth, I wonder how many of her family members had the same faith that she did. How many of Mary’s relatives believed her story and rejoiced with her that she was chosen to bring the incarnation of the Messiah they had been expecting for millenia?

I believe Elizabeth was able to relate to Mary–and vice versa– because they both experienced miraculous births. At the same time Mary was informed of her pregnancy, she was told that Elizabeth, who was much older than her and well past the typical childbearing age, was also expecting a child.

But besides Elizabeth, Mary only had God to whom she could turn. She reminds me of a teenager writing in her journal: “Dear Diary, I am so happy I could burst! My soul could shout from the mountains! God is like, so totally, good! Seriously, he chose me of all people. Me! I’m no one special.”

Through this song, we see God flipping the social order. Mary’s song of praise is one in which she recognizes that of all the women in Israel, God chose a poor teenager from what may very well be one of the slums in Israel in order to give birth to the savior of the world. God didn’t choose anyone wealthy or privileged or educated. Mary wasn’t chosen because she earned the right to bear this savior. She was chosen because God chose her.

Could the world be about to turn? Could this very decision to choose Mary be a sign of what her son Jesus would do in the world? Delivering the oppressed? Punishing tyrants? Relieving the suffering of the poor?

Below image: “The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

2 thoughts on “Blogmas Day 3: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout (Canticle of the Turning)”

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