An Exposition on: the Magnificat Prayer of Our Lady
This prayer thought out and worded by Mary the mother of Jesus herself, is recorded in our New Testament. Mary alone is responsible for this ancient Christian prayer. It constitutes her statement of her belief in God the Father, His good works, her ancestors and her belief in her importance to the Father Himself and His faith in her the mother of His son. This Magnificat is as close as we will get in writing to understanding on Earth the relations between Mary and the Father Almighty. It is her plea for recognition and praise to that Father of us all.
The Magnificat Prayer of Our Lady“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
My spirit exults in God my saviour
Because He has looked upon His lowly handmaid
Yes from this day forward all generations shall call me Blessed!
For the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is His name, His mercy
Shall reach from age to age for those who fear Him.
He has shown the power of His arm
He has routed the proud of heart
He has pulled down Princes from their thrones
He has exalted the lowly
He has filled the hungry with good things
He has sent the rich away empty handed
He comes to the help of Israel His servant.
Mindful of His mercy in accordance
With the promise He made to our
Ancestors of His mercy to
Abraham and his descendents forever.”
My Intention in this essay is not to analyse this prayer of the Virgin Mary line by line, but rather to understand the Spirit behind it, namely the Blessed Virgin Mary’s own spirit. She is inspired to this prayer by the Spirit within her as she exults in her Saviour – God Himself.
She has made extravagant claims for herself in this prayer, so many would have argued against her in times gone by when religion really mattered. Essentially she anchors herself on “the lowly handmaid” clause, but make no mistake the words of the Magnificat are hers alone and she utters: “All generations shall call me Blessed” long before the Glorious Assumption, the Ascension, the Resurrection, the Crucifixion and the Birth of Jesus. All she has to go on is the Annunciation for which there are no standing witnesses on Earth. She is on her own and she would nowadays be accused of fantasising and reckless language indicative of a disturbed mind in this Magnificat of hers. She could not, to put it succinctly, in the modern age, as an unsophisticated young woman have passed muster. She would be taken in hand, especially as she was pregnant. The powers that be in our modern English society would wish to remove her child in to care on birth as frequently occurs with such feckless young women. I have seen it done myself and those social workers are duty bound to act in that way. Mary lived in a less well regulated society and clearly her care for her Son was quite correct in His childhood. He was well brought up.
3) The premeditated nature of this Magnificat
This prayer was exclaimed without warning by Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, when she arrived at her home after Elizabeth’s famous greeting. They were both pregnant – Mary with Jesus and Elizabeth with John later to be the Baptist. The Magnificat must have been rehearsed to some degree to reach such a crescendo of vocal power and declamation. As Mary trod the path to Elizabeth’s home the words of this extremely direct and outspoken prayer would have crystallised. As the words were a little lengthy and plainly capable of being heard as aggrandising, they had to be mulled over and properly confirmed in Mary’s heart to be uttered.
Who would dare say out loud to another adult such language in this context in their right mind nowadays? I would say no one. Present day Christians would abhor such strong words from their own mouths applied to themselves as Mary applied this Magnificat to herself. Mary would know as a well bred woman despite her lack of means, the meaning of gross overstatement and shambolic empty words. She was a Jewess: practising and attended the Temple. She understood her case and stuck to it before Elizabeth. She believed her words and did not falter. If she had shown half heartedness not only would her kinswoman have seen through her she would have destroyed her own credibility in herself. Elizabeth would have forgiven her, but Mary could not have forgiven herself for such appalling faith not worth the paper it was to be written on sometime later in the New Testament.
Mary was made of stronger stuff. I argue the core words: “All generations shall call me Blessed” were deeply premeditated and they packed the heaviest punch. They were also the most risky in terms of Mary being thought a speaker of worthless promises and phrases. Mary took the day by storm in her planned exclamation of this revered prayer based on her now well known and profound humility. Only Elizabeth present but still absolutely crucial to Christianity: this encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. It was a big gamble but with Mary there could be only one winner – namely God the Father. This is the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: The Visitation. Never think it was always decided. Life is different. Mary was a very brave woman. She had free will and she was not infallible, however holy.
4) The modern pattern further thought through
Our modern politicians of the West are chosen for their ultra-cautious approach. They don’t stick their necks out. Any of our political elite who do will be earmarked for the political wilderness. There is no variety and real vivacity left amongst these political leaders in the EU and the West. If any of our politicians or public figures espoused the Magnificat theme in any shape or form in their lives, they would be considered someone who speaks laughable hyperbole. Such a person would be consigned to oblivion. Such is the climate of blandness and blasé at that.
Mary revealed her inner essence in the first line of the Magnificat and the exultation of her spirit. Is it that our 21st Century Christians say only Mary can pray like this? In one sense they are right – in another sense they are timidly wrong. If Mary can say and do it so can we in our humble lives. It is confidence in God the Father that Mary breathes in this prayer, and we may show the same confidence in Almighty God ourselves in our own words of prayer stemming from the Magnificat. Yes Mary was a little nervous before Elizabeth, her kinswoman, but that drove her speech delivery as lack of confidence does.
Please do not leave Mary on a pedestal. She has never desired secrecy save in grave danger. She is amongst us urging us to follow her example in her great Magnificat prayer of action. We are not all men and women of action who may show the same confidence outwardly to another as Mary did in this prayer I agree. If you do utter this Prayer explicitly and/or in so many forms in your public life then remember Mary is with you urging “the lowly handmaid” status on you in your drive for goodness and moral right.
The crunch is, may some of our leaders of morality and political thought create change as Mary powered her life upon the Magnificat namely: the Birth of Jesus, the Presentation in the Temple, the flight to Egypt, the Finding of her son in the Temple and His life and death and passion, the Resurrection and Ascension. Mary believed in this public life of herself and her son. She was always visible at her son’s side to His Ascension that was her Blessedness. Where is Mary in the 21st Century? Have no doubt her “progeny”, so blessed, are amongst us. Do we recognise them as her children? I may introduce you to them. They will not harm you. Our Lady is the mother of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God in the one and indivisible Trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We speak of Our Lady or Holy Mary of Good Health. In Italian “Santa Maria della Salute”.
Yes she offers us good health. But to find her children will require not only prayer and health, but preparedness to argue your case as Mary did in her Magnificat, and put your career on the line for her. Then you will be counted amongst her blessed. Never forget the good health of our society depends upon open and frank debate. Without that freedom of expression our liberty is in chains. Prisoners do not enjoy good physical and mental health.