This week at Holy Mass the Gospel readings are from Luke, Chapters 1 and 2, beginning on Tuesday with the story of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38) and ending Sunday, the Christmas Mass at dawn, with the story of the shepherds’ visit to the Babe in the manger (Lk 2:15-20). My personal favorite is the Gospel reading from today, Thursday, which is the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, specifically Mary’s canticle, which has come to be known as the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56). Let us consider this canticle, one or two sentences at a time.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For He as looked upon his lowly servant.” (Lk 1:46-47). Why is her soul proclaiming the greatness of the Lord? Why is she thinking how great the Lord is at this moment? A few weeks earlier, she gave her consent to the angel Gabriel to become the mother of God and became pregnant with Jesus. Now, after a long trek on foot to visit Elizabeth, she is plainly breathless with excitement. The idea of becoming the mother of God had not been on her radar screen. God is great because He chose her, a young, lowly servant. Jesus was expected to be born into richness and perhaps royalty. Mary hardly fit the bill. Perhaps humility and lowliness was what God wanted for this role. At any rate, she is excited beyond words! She referred to God as her Savior. Some question why she needed a savior if she was sinless according to the Catholic Church’s interpretation of Scripture. Yes, God granted her an immaculate conception. His act as Savior simply occurred sooner in her life than it did for the rest of us.
“From this day, all generations will call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.” (Lk 1:48-49). Indeed, all generations have called her blessed: Blessed Virgin, Blessed Mother, etc. This prophecy came true. Then, she recognized that what happened was a great thing, which indeed it was … God becoming man through her motherhood. She also recognized that this God is also the God of all past and future generations. He showed his mercy throughout the Old Testament and it is a pretty good prediction that his mercy will endure through all future generations. She knew her God well.
“He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Lk 1:51-53). The conceited proud, the mighty on their thrones, and the rich … all sent away empty. It’s simply unbelievable that he would lift up the lowly; someone who is poor … hungry much of the time, perhaps even destitute … but now filled with good things, filled with love, hope, joy, and the exhilaration at the prospect of living life as the Mother of the Redeemer!
“He has come to the help of His servant Israel, for He remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” (Lk 1:54-55). Mary recognizes this awesome gift as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, finally, after many centuries of time passed. People may have thought that God forgot his promise of a Redeemer. But, no, Mary is now prepared to shout out the world that He has not … He remembered his promise!
This is such an beautiful poem. Going forward now, Mary is prepared to serve her Master as well as anyone could. What a gift for her. I would love to be a fly on the wall as she now returns to her life in Nazareth. Imagine the broadest smile on her face as she begins the rest of her life knowing she and all future generations have been given the greatest gift anyone could ever hope for … the formula for eternal life. And, yes, that means you and me. Amen.
The photograph accompanying this post is of Mary's visit to Elizabeth. I snapped it on the grounds of the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in La Crosse, Wisconsin.