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Magnificat

– The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary –

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” [Luke 1:46-47]

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour

 
I have been a Catholic since my early twenties and the Magnificat is well known to me. There is the familiar rhythm in the words “Soul, Lord, Spirit, rejoices, God, Saviour,” a familiarity that can dull us to the full significance of Mary’s declaration. The first part of the Magnificat is all astonished praise at the fact that God has made the humble and lowly to be lifted up. In fact, Mary is proof in the flesh that God loves the humble and insignificant. She experiences in her own body the coming of God into the world.


For he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.


God is not doing Mary a favour because she has been good and modest and pious. He is showing where he wishes to dwell, not on a human throne, but on the throne of the human soul, with those whom the word holds of little account. When God chose Mary as the one by whom he would come into the world, he himself was declaring a new ordering of things “on earth as it is in heaven”.


In the second part of the Magnificat, Mary speaks of the coming of God into the world, and her tone changes:


He puts forth his arm in strength;
He has scattered the proud hearted;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly.

 
Here, Mary is no silent veiled figure in a Nativity play, and her words are not a girlish gush of obedient praise. This is a strident calling out of injustice and oppression, a passionate declaration of who God is and what God does, and whom God favours. And, once again, Mary’s conviction resides in what is happening to her. She could almost be saying “I know this to be true, because it is happening to me and I, in the depths of my being, know that this is how God acts.”


How do Mary’s words in Luke’s Gospel open up for us a wider understanding of who God is and what God has done, and is doing still, in becoming human?


By Janiene Wilson

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