My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
Summary – This well-known passage is known as “The Magnificat,” taken from the first phrase of its Latin translation, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum.” It is Mary’s song of praise following her visit to Elizabeth soon after she found out she was pregnant with Jesus. The character of this song echoes Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2, which begins, “My heart exults the Lord.” Prayers of this sort throughout Scripture often come with certain characteristics, beyond thanksgiving and praise. First, a recognition of God’s Sovereignty in the events of life (cf. Luke 1:51-52 and 1 Sam 2:6); and second, a enumeration of the “first becoming last, and the last first” (cf. Luke1:52 and 1 Sam 2:4). Mary, in praising the Lord for His favor to her, recognizes God as the author and executor of her salvation, believes in His goodwill towards those who fear God with humility, and trusts in God’s covenantal promise to father Abraham.
Insight – One of the fruits of the Spirit is “patience.” Patience is not in that list because it’s a natural human tendency, but rather because it’s tough! It is not easy for us to be patient. We want God to bless us now, and we tend to get frustrated if it seems like it takes a long time. In fact, sometimes we may think God forgot about us! But we learn from St. Mary that the Lord exalts “those of humble estate.” Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed teaches that the seed in the good soil is like those who receive the gospel and “bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). St. Paul agrees, saying that those who “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom 2:7). Mary was not from a wealthy family. She had no earthly prestige that made her a good candidate to be the Mother of God. Rather it was her faith in God’s promises that made her the “favored one” (Luke 1:28). She discerned that after generations of those who fear Him, God shows mercy. God’s blessing and salvation does not come to us because of anything good in ourselves–not wisdom, power, or nobility–but because of His love and His faithfulness to His promises, He graciously blesses those who walk in patient faithfulness. Let us not lose hope, though it may seem like God is taking His time making His “kingdom come” on earth as in heaven. But this Advent season, let us recall that God kept His promises in the past by sending Christ, and He will in no-wise forget to keep His promises present and future.
Child Catechism – Who said, “My soul magnifies the Lord”? Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Discussion – What about Mary’s experience causes generations to cause her “blessed”? Why did God choose to bless her? What did Mary see as her role in the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant?
Prayer – Holy Father, may your name increase in this world. We rejoice at your salvation so graciously given to us through your Son’s historic coming to earth. You have looked on a humble and hungry people, and sent Bread from Heaven to fill them with good things. As you have remembered your promises to Abraham, now remember your promises to us, your children. May your kingdom come on earth as in heaven. In the name of your Son, Amen.