Let’s listen to Mary’s song

Picture of David J Hore CSsR

David J Hore CSsR

David is a Redemptorist priest and writer

Mary set out quickly from Nazareth to a town in the hill country of Judah, to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the child we know as John the Baptist. Mary is carrying her own child, Jesus. At the presence of Jesus and his mother, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy!

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, excitedly bursts into praise. She recognises the special position of Mary and her Son: “Of all women you are the most blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Then, it’s Mary’s turn to sing God’s praises in the song we call the ‘Magnificat’. 


Mary begins by proclaiming God’s greatness: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Mary’s happy because God has affirmed and honoured her lowliness; calling her to faithful service. God’s special care is for little ones.


Mary echoes the same joy that Jesus blesses the Father, because God is hidden to ‘the wise and the learned’ and is revealed to ‘the little ones’. In the New Covenant, God’s ‘preference’ is for the lowly and humble who are specially favoured. ‘Greatness’ doesn’t come from social status!


From this day forward all generations will call me blessed. This isn’t an arrogant statement. Rather, it’s humble thanksgiving. What an extraordinary grace to be chosen to be the mother of the world’s Saviour. Mary rejoices and is deeply grateful for being chosen for this privilege.


It’s yet another sign of God’s desire that the poor, the weak, the marginalised, the wounded, the exploited and discriminated against in this world should be the special recipients of God’s love, care and concern.


Mary knows that God’s faithful love and mercy reaches from age to age and accompanies all generations. It’s the message Jesus preached and lived and that’s why disciples need to ‘be merciful as your Father is merciful’. Mary, in a very special way, embodies the tenderness of God and points us to Jesus’ fundamental message, that God’s true nature is compassion and love.


Mary proclaims the God of the poor, who pulls down princes from their thrones, removes their power to oppress and sends them away empty handed. Indeed, God will exalt the lowly, so they reclaim their dignity and worth. God will fill the hungry with good things, so they enjoy a more valued and just life. In other words, the last shall be first, and the first last.


Today, with faith and trust, we’re invited to make Mary’s song our own; and to live our lives guided by its spirit and deep simplicity. The fulfilment of the song’s promises and Mary’s fidelity to them, ‘led her home’ to eternal life with God. Where she has gone, we hope to follow. 


Image: The Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli (1481).


Footnote: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15.

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