Thursday, June 11, 2009

About the Magnificat
The Magnificat [Latin: magnifies], also called the Canticle of Mary, is recorded in the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55). It is the Virgin Mary's joyous prayer in response to her Cousin Elizabeth's greeting (Luke 1: 41-45). This great hymn forms part of the Church's prayer in the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). When it is recited as part of the Divine Office, it is followed by the Gloria Patri ("Glory be"). The traditional sung Magnificat is Latin plainchant. One of the hymn's most glorious musical renditions is the version of the Magnificat by J.S. Bach.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Magnificat as "the song both of the Mother of God and of the Church" [CCC 2619], and explains this prayer's significance:
Mary's prayer is revealed to us at the dawning of the fullness of time. Before the Incarnation of the Son of God, and before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, her prayer cooperates in a unique way with the Father's plan of loving kindness: at the Annunciation, for Christ's conception; at Pentecost, for the formation of the Church, His Body. In the faith of His humble handmaid, the Gift of God found the acceptance He had awaited from the beginning of time. She whom the Almighty made "full of grace" responds by offering her whole being: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to Thy word". "Fiat": this is Christian prayer: to be wholly God’s because He is wholly ours. [CCC 2617] (Women for Faith & Family –
The Magnificat (also known as the Song of Mary) is a canticle frequently sung (or said) liturgically in Christian church services. The text of the canticle is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55) where it spoken by the Virgin Mary upon the occasion of her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. In the narrative, after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with the future, John the Baptist, the child moves within Elizabeth's womb. When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings the Magnificat in response.
The canticle echoes several Old Testament biblical passages, but the most pronounced allusions are to the Song of Hannah, from the Books of Samuel (1Samuel 2:1-10). Along with the Benedictus, as well as several Old Testament canticles, the Magnificat is included in the Book of Odes, an ancient liturgical collection found in some manuscripts of the Septuagint.
Within Christianity, the Magnificat is most frequently recited within the Liturgy of the Hours. In Western Christianity, the Magnificat is most often sung or recited during the main evening prayer service: Vespers within Roman Catholicism and Evening Prayer within Anglicanism. In Eastern Christianity, the Magnificat is usually sung at Sunday Matins. Within protestant groups, the Magnificat may be sung during worship services.
Like all other New Testament texts the Magnificat was originally written in Greek. However, in the Western Church it is most often to be found in Latin or the vernacular. Its name comes from the first word of the Latin version (see incipit).
In order properly to understand this sacred hymn of praise, we need to bear in mind that the most blessed Virgin Mary is speaking out of her own experience, in which she was enlightened and instructed by the Holy Spirit.
• For no one can rightly understand God or His Word who has not received such understanding directly from the Holy Spirit. But no one can receive it from the Holy Spirit without experiencing, proving and feeling it. In such experience the Holy Spirit instructs us as in His own school, outside of which NOTHING is learned EXCEPT empty words and idle fables. When the Holy Virgin, then, experienced what great things God wrought in her, notwithstanding she was so poor, meek, despised, and of low degree, the Holy Spirit taught her this precious knowledge and wisdom, that God is a Lord whose work consists but in this — to exalt them of low degree, to put down the mighty from their seats, in short, to break whatever is whole and make whole whatever is broken.
For even as God in the beginning of creation made the world out of nothing, whence He is called the Creator and the Almighty, so His manner of working continues still the same. Even now and unto the end of the world, all His works are such that out of that which is nothing, worthless, despised, wretched and dead, He makes that which is something, precious, honorable, blessed and living. Again, whatever is something, precious, honorable, blessed and living; He makes to be nothing, worthless, despised, wretched and dying. After this manner no creature can work; none can produce anything out of nothing.
Therefore His eyes look only into the depths, not unto the heights; as it is said in Daniel 3:55, “Thou sittest upon the cherubim, and beholders the depths”; in <19d806> Psalm 138:6, “The Lord is the most high, and looked down on the low: and the high he knoweth afar off”; and in <19b305> Psalm 113:5, “Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelled on high, and looked down on the low things in heaven and earth?” For since He is the Most High, and there is naught above Him, He cannot look above Him; nor yet to either side, for there is none like unto Him. He must needs, therefore, look within Him and beneath Him; and the farther one is beneath Him, the better doth He see him.
The eyes of the world and of men, on the contrary, look only above them and are lifted up with pride, as it is said in the book of Proverbs, “There is a generation, whose eyes are lofty, and their eyelids lifted up on high.” This we experience every day. Every one strives after that which is above him, after honor, power, wealth, knowledge, a life of ease, and whatever is lofty and great. And where such folk are, there are many hangers-on, all the world gathers round them, gladly yields them service, and would be by their side and share in their high estate. Wherefore the Scriptures not vainly describe but few kings and rulers who were godly men. On the other hand, no one is willing to look into the depths with their poverty, disgrace, squalor, misery and anguish. From these all turn away their eyes. Where there are such folk, everyone takes to his heels, forsakes and shuns and leaves them to themselves; no one dreams of helping them nor of making something out of them. And so they must need remain in the depths and in their low and despised estate. There is among men no creator who would make something out of nothing, although that is what St. Paul teaches in Romans 12:6, when he says, “Dear brethren, set not your mind on high things, but go along with the lowly.” (Piper John, Meditation on the Magnificat, Wikipedia, Free Encyclopedia, 1980.
Having received the Good news about the birth of a son through the power of the Holy Spirit and having received a confirmation of the conception of John the Baptist by Elizabeth (her cousin) in her old age, Mary, in her confusion set out to render service to her cousin Elizabeth. I am sure that Mary was wondering how she will unravel the uncertainties of her pregnancy to Elizabeth who had intercourse with her husband Zechariah before her conception.
… Elizabeth, in some mysterious way, knew that Mary was bearing within her the Messiah. She asked:
Who am l, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? (Luke 1:43)
This salutation came from the mother of the King whose path the herald was destined to prepare. John the Baptist still cloistered in his mother’ womb, on his mother’ testimony leaped with joy at the mother who brought the Christ to her home. Mary’ response to this salutation is called the MAGNIFICAT, a song of joy celebrating what God has done for her. She looked back over history, back to Abraham; she saw the activity of God preparing for this moment from generation to generation, she looked also into an indefinite future when all peoples and all generations would call her “ Blessed.” Israel’ Messiah was on His way, and God was about to manifest Himself on earth and in the flesh. She even prophesied the qualities of the Son who was to be born of her as full of justice and mercy. Her poem ends by acclaiming the revolution He will inaugurate with the unseating of the mighty and the exaltation of the humble.
Thus in the midst of this confusion, Elizabeth exclaims immediately she saw Mary “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened that the mother of my Lord should come to me…” (Luke 1:47). Remember that Elizabeth was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.” Blessed is she who believed that there will be a fulfillment of what was spoken by the lord…” at once, Mary knew that her undivulged secret has been revealed to Elizabeth. Mary’s joy was complete. Mary, apart from visiting her cousin to lend her support saw in Elizabeth someone she can trust. Thus, Elizabeth’s exclamation was a confirmation for Mary’s acceptance of the Good news; the Good news about the birth of Christ.
Concurrently, Joseph the Husband of Mary was in his confused state. What would men have done in such a situation? We are told that Joseph was an honourable man and so did not want to disgrace Mary publicly (lesson for men). In his confusion, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him to give him assurance. The foundation of our encounter with Jesus is the desire for holiness. Joseph we are told was a holy man and so he took his encounter with the angel with all seriousness and trusted in God’s providence. What about St. Anne and St. Joachim, Mary’s parents? How did they receive the news of Mary’s pregnancy taking cognizance of her betrothal to Joseph? What were they going to tell Joseph, their respective families and friends? What an embarrassing situation perhaps, they thought. But since God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable, he found solution to this enigma by way of revealing himself to Joseph and assuring him of Mary’s situation. Thus in the midst of his confused state, Joseph waited on the Lord. What a lesson for us. How often have we not been impatient with God when we encounter difficulties, how often have we not cursed God and as a result of that failed to listen to the solution to our problems. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:30). Indeed, Joseph waited upon the Lord and he experienced a renewed confidence and faith in God.
Tradition has it that the parents of Mary, Anne and Joachim were in dire need of a child. St Anne was barren for so many years. But she and her husband waited on the Lord; they trusted Him and God granted them their request. Hence Mary was conceived immaculately. It is highly possible that St Anne and St. Joachim were not aware of the nobility of Mary, but they brought her up in the fear of the Lord. I am sure that they recountered to Mary their own experience of bareness and how they trusted in the Lord because with him all things are possible. Mary perhaps imbibed these teachings and when she was confronted with the difficult task of having to be the mother of our savior, even though she did not understand everything, she trusted in God’s faithfulness and providence. She believed that the God who was faithful to her parents will not forget her handmaid. Parents and guardians, how are we bringing up our children, what values are we imparting to them, what faith experiences do we share with them such that when they encounter difficulties in their life journeys they can draw lessons from? The challenge is ours. What about us, young men and women, how are we putting into practice these faith experiences that we hear from Biblical characters, our parents, noblemen of our time? Mary is an epitome of that faith experience because she translated into concrete action what she learnt from her parents “Behold, l am the hand maid of the Lord be it done unto me according to thy word.” What a faith proclamation that wrought our salvation. Indeed, Mary deserves to be called blessed not because Elizabeth called her blessed but because she found favour with the God She trusted. Elizabeth represents a humanity that sings the blessedness of Mary from generation to generation. If Mary has found favour with God; if Elizabeth will call her blessed, then who are you not to call her blessed; who are you to despise her? Whether you acknowledge her blessedness or not, she is blessed because it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Perhaps another reason why Mary gave her fiat, that which broke the Carmel’s back was the fact that she received a confirmation of what she was going through when the Angel made reference to Elizabeth’s pregnancy- “a woman who was past child birth, for nothing is impossible with God.” I believe strongly that Mary could not bring herself to believe that Elizabeth could conceive. Thus immediately she visited Elizabeth her suspicion was calmed. Mary applied the correspondence theory of truth and it worked for her. Hence, the Magnificat. The word ‘Magnify’ connotes enlargement. When Mary says “My soul magnifies the Lord”, she intends to make God known and seen by all generations. It means, her life must reflect who God is in its entirety.
Why did Mary not sing the Magnificat before visiting her cousin or in front of the Angel? Was Mary not sure of God’s promise; was she in doubt or she needed a confirmation which she found in Elizabeth’s confession? “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened that the mother of my Lord comes to me… and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” ( Luke 1: 42-45). When God calls us to accomplish a mission, he gives a confirmation or better still a sign that He is with us. We can only see that through the eyes of faith. Our prayer should be “That we may see.”
The Magnificat would remain a paradox; an enigma for generations. This is because one cannot fathom how a woman in Mary’s situation would sing praises to God. Yet that was what Mary did. The words of the Magnificat would reveal later Mary’s unshakable trust in God; her humility and above all her service to humanity. No wonder the church presents her to us as a perfect model of all virtues (SEE SC). Elizabeth called her blessed. Indeed she herself declared “henceforth, all generations will call me blessed” that is what the Church does everyday whenever we pray the rosary and celebrate her feast. Who then are you not to call her blessed?
Women for Faith & Family –
Let's look briefly at what she says in her praise to God. I see three distinct sections in the Magnificat. First there is Mary's expression of what she feels in her heart (verses 46 and 47), namely joy. Second, she mentions what God has done specifically for her as an individual (verses 48 and 49): regarded her lowliness; did great things for her and thus gave her an enduring reputation for blessedness. Third, she spends most of the time describing the way God is in general. This general character of God accounts for why He has treated her the way He has in her lowliness and thus leads her to rejoice and magnify the Lord. We'll look at these three sections in reverse order.
In the second half of verse 49 Mary makes the general statement that God's name is holy. That is, God's nature, His essence is holiness. He is completely free from sin and His ways are not our ways. He is separate from and exalted above the creature. All His attributes are perfect and they all cohere in a perfect harmony called holiness. But what Mary stresses is the way this holiness expresses itself. And her words are a warning to Theophilus and to us not to make the common mistake that because God is great He is partial to great men, or because God is exalted He favors what is exalted among men. Just the opposite is the case. God's holiness has expressed itself and will express itself by exalting the lowly and abasing the haughty.
What fills Mary's heart with joy is that God loves to undertake for the underdog who calls on His mercy. She mentions this three times: verse 50: "He has mercy on those who fear Him"; verse 52: "He has exalted those of low degree"; verse 53: "He has filled the hungry with good things." That's one side of God's holiness. The other side is that God opposes and abases the haughty. Mary mentions this three times also: verse 51: "He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts"; verse 52: "He has put down the mighty from their thrones"; verse 53: "The rich He has sent away empty."
It is clear from Mary's words (and from the whole Bible) that God is not partial to the rich, the powerful or the proud. How could God be partial to the things which in our world are more often than not substitutes for God rather than pointers to God? Vast numbers of people have perished because they were enamored by pride, power and wealth. Arid probably Theophilus as a ranking Roman official has all three. So Mary's Magnificat is not just recorded out of pure antiquarian interest. There is a word of warning and of salvation here. Theophilus, look at what God is really like: He is not the least impressed by any of your pride, power or opulence. He has mercy on those who fear Him, who humble themselves and turn from the ego boosting accumulation of wealth to the lowliness of self-denial for the sake of others. This is the way God is, Theophilus. This is how His holiness expresses itself. Does this not commend itself as true, that the great and holy God should magnify His greatness by blessing the lowly who admire His greatness and by abasing the haughty who resent His greatness?
That's the third section of the Magnificat. Now we move back to the second section, verses 48-49a. Here Mary simply sees in her own experience an example of the way God is. He condescends to Mary's lowliness and does a great thing for her: He makes her the mother of God! It is such a singular and unimaginable blessing that all generations from that time on have acknowledged Mary's blessedness. Once Mary learned from the song of Hannah and all the Old Testament that God abases the proud but blesses the lowly who look to Him for mercy, but now she has found it to be true in her own experience. Probably it is because she had learned it so well from Scripture that she was ready and able to experience it herself.
This is probably the place for a warning against an undue exaltation of Mary as morally unique. She is unique. No one else bore the Son of God. But the Roman Catholic doctrines of her sinless life, her perpetual virginity, her bodily assumption into heaven have no warrant in the New Testament. In fact there is an implicit warning against excessive veneration of Mary in Luke 11:27-28. Luke tells us that once after Jesus had spoken "a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked!' But He said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it."' At another time (recorded in Luke 8:19-21) "His mother and His brothers come to Him, but they could not reach Him for the crowd. And He was told, 'Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.' But He said to them, 'My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it."' Jesus was fairly blunt in both of these instances and there surely is no indication that Mary should be venerated in a moral class by herself.
But let's not let the excesses of the Catholic tradition keep us from sharing the admiration for Mary that Luke obviously had. Her spiritual beauty reaches its emotional peak in the first part of her song where she responds from the heart to all God did for her, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."
How does a soul magnify God? A mouth magnifies God by saying, "God is magnificent," by speaking His praises. But no one hears a soul. No one but you and God. But I doubt that Mary means she is verbalizing a silent prayer. I think she means that at this moment her soul feels the greatness and holiness and mercy of God. And the feeling is primarily one of joy. "My spirit rejoices in God!" Two weeks ago I preached on Psalm 69:30, "I will magnify God with thanksgiving." Now we learn the truth that we also magnify God by rejoicing in Him. And just like I did then, I want to close now with this point: it is good news to learn that we magnify God by rejoicing in Him. It's good news because we are commanded to glorify or magnify God (1 Cor. 10:33; Romans 1:20f) and this command could be a terrible burden if we weren't told that the only way to fulfill it is to relax and be happy in the mercy of God. That is what magnifies God most.

The first two lines above of the Magnificat reveals that the true worship and praise of God must come from the soul (heart) and the spirit and not the body. The true worship of God is not physical (The true worshippers, will worship in spirit and Truth. “But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and in truth. For the Father seeks such as these to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). According to St. Bede the Venerable when Mary says this:
Mary is in the first place, acknowledging the special gifts she has been given and then she is speaking of the general blessings with which God never ceases from all eternity to come to men’s aid. The soul which magnifies the Lord is the soul of the man who devotes all his spiritual energies to the praise and service of God and by keeping the commandments shows that he keeps steadily before his mind the divine power and majesty.
A man can say that his spirit rejoices in God his savior, if he makes it his sole delight to think of his creator, from whom he hopes to receive eternal salvation.
All who have achieved perfection would be justified in using these words, but it was especially fitting that they should be spoken by the blessed mother of God, for the privileges accorded to her special merits filled her with a great spiritual love for the one she was so happy to conceive.
She had every right to rejoice in Jesus that is in her savior, with greater joy than other saints, because she knew that she was going to give birth in the course of time to the one whom she recognized as the eternal author of salvation. For he would truly be her son and her Lord, in one and the same person. As mother of God, Mary also acknowledges the fact that Jesus is her God. In Catholic hymn number 108, the songster says:
O Father fount of joy,
Your glory l adore;
O loving Spirit, praise be yours,
Who gave me God, my Son!
The soul (Spirit) is a mark of God’s ownership on our life (Ephesians 4: 30). It is that which makes us unique; that which gives us identity as children of God. I am certain that Mary is only affirming what St. Augustine once said “You created us for Thee and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”. Indeed if we do not give praise to God, then our hearts will be restless. This is because it is that which gives us identity; identity as children of God.
Again, Mary said that my spirit rejoices in God my savior. Mary recognizes in her spirit that God is her savior. Even in her confusion, Mary recognizes God as her savior. Her humility is incomparable, unimaginable, and unfathomable and yet that is what she did. How many of us, when we are in trouble would not first of all, deny God by hurling insults at Him, how many more would be impatient and seek solution to their problems elsewhere? Mary in her dilemma praises God and rejoices in Him. He calls God her savior. What a perfect model of a woman the church presents to us. Mary seems to be saying “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of everlasting life”. Shall we emulate her by praising God whenever we are difficult moments? The paradox is that when we are in trouble, it is only God who can liberate us. So why would we do something to further stray our relationship with the only God who can save us? What a needless pain we bear when we fail to bring to God in prayer all our troubles. The songster says it all:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and grief to bear,
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit!
Oh, what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer. (Catholic Hymn Number 259)
Having sung the praises of God, Mary acknowledges her humble beginning even though the mother of God. She never forgot her past or background. How many of us when God has blessed us remember our humble beginnings. We forget, but Mary did not forget. She sought everlasting fame, not a fame which is ephemeral. In her magnificat, Mary sees beyond the physical; beyond the present “henceforth all ages shall call me blessed because the Almighty has done great things for me.” Mary could not compare the present suffering to the glory that is to be revealed in her life. Her boast was in what God is preparing her for, not considering what society will say about her. Friends, God is not interested in our accomplishment, in our successes or failures, wealth, fame but how available we are to Him. Mary is an epitome of that availability. By her faith, she readily accepted the challenge to be the mother of God; a challenge which is a sign of contradiction to Mary in the world.

For Mary, blessedness means doing the will of the Father. Again she is an epitome of the beatitude.
a. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Indeed Mary was poor in spirit because she abandoned herself unto her maker- behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.
b. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Indeed Mary went through mournful periods for her son. The prophecy that Simon made concerning the future of Jesus Christ and Mary’s own suffering leaves much to be desired. “A sword shall pierce your own soul and the thoughts of many shall be laid bare”. In spite of all these challenging moments, Mary was rewarded and comforted with the assumption and ultimately her coronation as queen of Heaven and earth.
c. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Again, Mary is an epitome of meekness. She acknowledges her total dependence on God and asked for His will to be done in her life. She realizes that it is only in the will of God that she will find peace and indeed she found peace. Again, her meekness is found in her service to Elizabeth Luke 1:39 says she went in haste to the hill country in Judea. Can you imagine the mother of God rendering service to the mother of her son’s forerunner? Even Elizabeth could not help but exclaimed with a loud voice “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me…” (cf Luke 1:42-44). Mary defied the order of the day- Kings should be served by their subjects. Instead she demonstrated true meekness, showing to the whole world that her son was to come to serve and not to be served and to give His life as a ransom for many. By her service to Elizabeth, Mary set the pace for true Christian leadership- SERVICE which is supposed to be imitated by every Tom, Dick and Harry. Service to one another is at the heart of our Christian calling and this must go beyond all boundaries.
d. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Did Mary hunger and thirst for righteousness? What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled...” Was Mary filled at all? Indeed, Mary hungered and thirsted for righteousness because she sought the penultimate in life; her desire to give her all to God. Like Moses, Mary refused to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of this life and chose to submit to the will of God. Mary’s hunger and thirst for righteousness was backed by faith because without faith, it is impossible to please God. For whoever would approach God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)
e. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Was Mary merciful? The wedding feast at Cana says it all. “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, they have no wine” (John 2:3). Mary was moved with pity (compassion) for the wedding host and guest. She did this request even at the time that Jesus HOUR HAD NOT YET COME. (Explain the HOUR IN DETAIL). INDEED Mary sped up her son’s passion and despite her son’s discouraging answer; she told the servants “do whatever He tells you” Today, Mary is still telling us to do whatever her son tells us to do for in doing what Jesus tells us to do we will find peace. (John 2:5). Again, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth was among other things out of mercy. She saw an old pregnant woman who needed her help. In Mary’s desire to render service to Elizabeth the Lord showed her mercy by Elizabeth’s proclamation “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should visit me at this time...” Mary seeing that the Lord had shown her mercy exclaimed “His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him”. Mary knew that mercy had been shown her by God since her family did not count at all in Israel. This mercy of God shown to Mary led her to humility. This mercy of God was overwhelming for Mary and having been fascinated by this mercy of God, she was spurred on to greater heights in her walk with God.
f. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
It is only one who is pure in heart who can sing the praises of God for praise is fitting for loyal hearts (Psalm 33:1). In her magnificat, we see a woman so immaculate; a woman who praises God out of the depth of her heart. She did not only see God but bore Him in her womb (Theotokos), suckled him with her breast, and walked this earth with him until his final consummation. Seeing God also means that she met with God’s favour. When we also give our all to God, we will meet with God’s favour. Mary’s pureness in heart was also demonstrated in the numerous answers Jesus gives her and the prophecies made about Jesus by Simeon. It is only a pure heart that can bore all these things. A pure heart always seeks the will of God; a pure heart is patient and above all peaceful. Let us look at the instances of Jesus’ answers to his mother.
“Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and l have been looking for searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them “why were you searching for me? Did you not know that l must be in my father’s house? But they did not understand what he said to them… His mother treasured all these things in her heart. (Luke 2: 48-51). The answer of Jesus to her parents was piercing and insulting. But it takes a mother and a father with a patient heart or a pure heart to understand the will of God.
“When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him “They have no wine” and Jesus said to her “woman, what concern is that to you and to me, my hour is not yet come (John 2: 3-4). Had she been any mother, she would have been angry with her son. It takes a pure heart to recognize that the negative answer that in the mind of readers Jesus gave was an affirmative answer. Thus, Mary said to the servants “Do whatever he tells you” (John 3:5). Even now our mother is telling us to do whatever her son tells us to do. Perhaps we have been praying for so long a time but things seem impossible. You are at the verge of giving up because Jesus seems to tell you that my hour has not yet come. Always remember that in that answer Mary recognized something positive in it and a miracle happened. We have a mother with a pure heart pleading our cause every day. See in your answer an affirmation that is to change your destiny.
“Then his mother and his brothers came standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him and they said to him “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you. And he replied “who are my mother, and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3:31-35)
The above words of Jesus are so profound an answer. It is a statement that only a mother with a pure heart can embrace. Mary immediately noticed that her son’s mission was a universal one and not limited by tribe, family or nation. It takes a pure heart to recognize that as Christians, our love for each other must cut across cultural and tribal affiliation; that nothing must be an obstacle to fulfilling the mission of Christ. It is the penultimate responsibility that we all have. That is why Christ will say that anyone who loves mother, father, brothers and sisters and even his own self more than me is not worthy of me. This is a total self-giving to Christ and our mother demonstrated this total self-giving. (Matthew 10: 37-39)
Was Mary a peacemaker? The circumstances surrounding her being chosen as the mother of God, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, her census experience, the birth of Jesus in a stable, flight to Egypt, the presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple, the finding of the child Jesus in the temple, the prophecy of Simeon, the numerous answers of Jesus to his parents( in the Temple, at the wedding at Cana, preaching activities, when he addressed his listeners as his mother, brothers and sisters, his passion and death, among others). All these events make her a peacemaker. Mary is a child of God and at the same time the mother of God (Theotokos). This is the paradox of her life. Her life is intrinsically linked to that of her son. In fact, they are distinctly inseparable such that to understand Christ, you must understand Mary. What mother in her right frame of mind, knowing that her son was innocent will allow for her son to be condemned? Won’t she organize people to defend and set her free? Yet, Mary, an epitome of peace looked on while her son was treated unjustly. It is only a peaceful heart who understands the mind of God and allows God’s will to be done even in the midst of bizarre situations. Mary knew that what her son was going through was to benefit the entire human race. Her mind was that of her son. She believed her sons words that those who lived by the sword will die by the sword. (Expound on Liberation Theology). This was indeed the umbilical cord that bound a mother to her son such that she could not abandon him when all else did namely the Apostles. The bond was so strong that her encounter with her son at the foot of the cross says it all. Jesus was placed on her laps. What mother would have such courage to do this? When you are a peacemaker like Mary, even when justice is denied you, you will wait upon the Lord. Indeed, Mary is not only a child of God, but the mother of God and that is why her son would not allow her body to see corruption (Assumption) and she became the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is indeed an epitome of peace.
“For it is a credit to you lf, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps (1Peter 2:19-21). Suffering is part of our Christian calling and even the mother of God went through suffering. St Peter emphasizes the need to be joyful when we suffer as Christians. This is the only way we can win God’s approval
Mary was noted as a chaste young woman and betrothed to Joseph another chaste young man, yet she was found with a child. Has Mary fornicated, I am sure was the thought going through the mind of Joseph. For her parents, it was unheard of. Their only daughter, whom they had prayed for during Anne’s time of bareness, is now a reproach not only to them but to the entire village of Galilee. For the Jews, it was an abomination to get pregnant before marriage. In all these circumstances, perhaps Mary felt betrayed. Did Mary understand what was happening to her? Was she aware of her new status? In the midst of all these, Mary did three things during her encounter with the Angel which is didactical.
• With the assurance of the Angel not to be afraid because she has found favour with the Lord, Mary opened up a dialogue with the Angel
• This dialogue enabled Mary to ask a question “ how will this be since I knew no man?” this was a logical question any normal human being will ask because a woman can only become pregnant through sexual intercourse. It was not as if Mary doubted what the Angel said but wanted to be clear on what the Angel told her.
• Mary then responded with the fiat “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy word. Mary recognized that faith defies logic. This understanding of Mary wrought our salvation. At least Mary knew that the shame, the confusion, the persecution she will go through can never be compared with the glory to be revealed in her life later on. Hence, her Assumption and consequently her Coronation. Indeed the Kingdom of God is her’s. When we are threatened with life challenges, do we give in o despair or doubt? Like Mary, we may not understand everything that might be happening to us. It may not be logical as well but it is in such moments that we must trust God more and abandon ourselves totally to him as Mary did. Indeed, faith must take over because Jesus assures us of a safe landing. Mary epitomizes all those who in the midst of challenges will seek the will of God.
We see that she attributes nothing to her own merits but speaks of all her greatness as the gift of the one who is power and greatness itself, the one who is constantly making his poor weak followers into characters of great strength. But she is right to add: and “Holy is His name”, in order to remind her hearers and in fact to teach all those to whom her words would one day reach, that they must believe in his name and call on it and take refuge in it. For they too can achieve a share in eternal sanctity and true salvation, as the prophecy says: “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is the name of which she said earlier: ‘My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
So it has become an excellent and salutary practice in the Church for everyone to sing this hymn daily in the office of evening prayer. In this way the faithful, being reminded more often of the incarnation of the Lord, are moved to devotion, and also strengthened in virtue by regular thought of his mother’s example. It is fitting that this should take place at evening prayer, for at the end of the day our minds are tired and a prey o distractions and it is very useful to have a moment of quiet to recollect ourselves and gather our thoughts.
This line of the Magnificat is a direct consequence of the preceding sentence “From now on all generations shall call me blessed”. Is teenage pregnancy a great thing God has done for Mary for which she praises God’s holiness? Even in the midst of Mary’s confusion she recognizes the hand of God in her life; she recognizes the holiness of God. I wish to place this line in context. Mary is confused about the fact that she has conceived of the power of the Holy Spirit. Her parents are in the state of confusion. Joseph, the husband of Mary is flabbergasted and was contemplating a secret divorce. Now Mary goes to visit Elizabeth her cousin who was in her sixth month of her pregnancy; she who was barren and advance in years. What a sharp contrast between Mary and Elizabeth and yet the pregnancy of Elizabeth was that which fascinated Mary so much that we are told that she traveled in earnest to verify it for herself what the Angel told her “And now your cousin Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son and this is her sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1: 36-37). Mary might have gone to render service to her cousin but l believe strongly that she needed a confirmation of what the Angel told her. This is what Elizabeth expressed in the following words: who am l that the mother of my God should visit me? This broke the Carmel’s back. Even in the midst of these challenging moments, Mary sang the Magnificat. She acknowledges the holiness of God and not her own purity. She recognizes that she did not merit this opportunity but the grace of God has been poured into her heart. How many times have we not ascribed to ourselves our success stories, achievements, progress in work financial breakthroughs, among others? When we become the envy of our neighbors, do we attribute to God our success stories; do we express these unmerited achievements by singing God’s praises? Mary even in her confusion, when she has become the taunt of her neighbors attributed to God her new status not considering the fact that she is the mother of God. This behavior of Mary can be expressed in the following song:
All that we have and all that we offer comes from a heart both frightened and free
Take what we bring now and give what we need
All done in his name
Some would rely on their power; others put their trust in their gold
Some have only their savior whose faithfulness never grows old (Glory and praise number 10).
Self-knowledge means that you come to appreciate what St. Augustine said “you created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord”. It is this self-knowledge that brought Mary to acknowledge the holiness of God and her own unworthiness. This makes the words of mother Theresa of Calcutta true when she said “it was when l discovered my true self that l found God. Self-knowledge is the first step towards knowing God. Mary found this and that is why she could sing the Magnificat even when she did not understand what was happening to her.

INDEED, the mercy of God is for those who fear him irrespective of any generation. God’s favour is for all who fear him. He has no favorites. The fear of God is the reverence; the awe we experience in his presence. Mary recognized this fact because she herself feared God. She has been brought up to fear God by her parents Joachim and Anne. By this recognition, the doctrine of the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION has become more profound and pronounced. Each and every one of us has been touched by original Sin except the mother of God and what Mary means is that her exemption was due to the mercy of God and that God was capable of raising men and women of all generations to bestow on His favour on them. Indeed, the favour of God which Mary received has been received by all generations irrespective of race, color, sex, religion and the like. This mercy of God is epitomized in the birth, deeds, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What Mary gave the world was mercy himself because Jesus came to die for all irrespective of whether we believe in his mercy or not. Now, it is our work to believe in his mercy for us so that he may grant us eternal life. For Mary, nothing was impossible with God. Do you believe in this promise of God of which is meant for you, your children and your children’s children? Possess your possession since the foundation of the world for “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bless us in Christ Jesus with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just us He chose us in Christ before the foundations of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love (Ephesians 1: 3-4). All the Lord needs from you is your availability and the recognition that His mercy extends to all who fear him. Even now, he can choose somebody from your family or even you to accomplish great things for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, greatness and what have you.

Indeed, Mary also recognized that the arm of God was stronger than any human endeavor. That God is able to do immeasurably more than we can even imagine or think about cannot be overemphasized. In this context, Mary acknowledges the fact that the hand of God is able to turn ‘tables’ round in the favour of any body at all. Reflecting on her own background (coming from a village of Nazareth, not even counted among the tribes of Israel of which Nathaniel says “can anything good come from Nazareth”). Mary could not but say that, God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. Mary whom society rejects, taunts, disregarded, God has raised above human understanding. This arm of God was that which molded and formed man. That same arm led the people of Israel through the Red Sea and this same arm having seen the affliction of fallen man decided to restore him to his lost dignity through a humble servant Mary. This was to fulfill what was spoken in Genesis that “l will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel,” even right at the conception of Jesus in her womb, Mary recognized that at his birth many kings and powerful rulers will be toppled; many who hear of him will be envious. We can talk about King Herod, Pilate and Emperor Caesar and the many who championed the course of his death: High Priest, Chief Priest to mention but few. More especially even after his death, the mere mention of his name met with persecution and so the persecution of his followers especially that of Emperor Nero is a case in point. In fact, Mary understood vividly what Simeon said that “This child is destined for the rising and falling of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed.” Mary experienced persecution herself; she experienced rejection herself at Bethlehem when she needed a place to deliver her son. Indeed, God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. Mary has become a living witness of this fact that she will proclaim this even before the reality of what was promised becomes manifest namely the mother of God. Mary presents to us an example of someone who will praise and glorify God before something is accomplished in her life. How many of us will not wait until good things come our way before we praise God? Let us learn from Mary.
I believe strongly Mary was talking about spiritual feeding and not physical feeding otherwise her statement will be a paradox. The rich do not need to be fed but the poor do. Thus for God to have fed the hungry with good things implies bringing hope into the life of those who are oppressed and poor in the community. Indeed, for her to have come from a family or a tribe which was not regarded in any way; a village of Nazareth of which Nathaniel says “Can anything good come from Nazareth? Mary knew what was at stake. Again, Many thought that the coming of the Messiah was to continue the status quo- that is he was going to identify himself with the Aristocracy in suppressing the poor but Jesus caused a scandal when all the Jewish authorities saw was that he was moving with the poor, tax collectors and all those considered to be sinners among the Jewish people. Jesus displaced the status quo and was calling for the toppling of the unjust structures of the Jewish society. But the Jewish authorities again missed this opportunity because they failed to see through the eyes of the Messiah. Thus the rich He has sent away empty and the poor or the hungry He has filled with good things namely: Zaccheaus, Bartimeaus, the repentant thief on the cross, the daughter of the Syrophonecian woman, the woman suffering from hemorrhage to mention but few. Money cannot buy salvation; it is a free gift from Jesus himself. He has thrown the invitation to us all. Ours is a response in faith. Are you rich yet hungry? Come to the source of living water that you have forsaken all these years and he will fill you with good things. MAKE REFERENCE TO LIBERATION THEOLOGY.

In this concluding part of the Magnificat, Mary acknowledges the faithfulness of God towards Israel especially as regards the promise God made to Abraham and his future generation. Mary herself is a beneficiary of this promise and could not fathom how a poor village girl like her could become the final bearer of this promise namely Jesus Christ. The long awaited Messiah has come especially when He is least expected. He came when Israel has gone through a long period of suffering due to their unfaithfulness to God. To say the least, he was born into a family that nobody expected. For Mary, this was least expected in her family and it happened. No wonder, Simeon in his Nunc Dimittis says the following:
At last all powerful Master,
You give leave to your servant
To go in peace, according to your promise
For my eyes have seen your salvation
Which you have prepared for all nations,
A light to enlighten the Gentiles
And give glory to Israel your people. (Luke 2:29-32)
My dear friends Simeon, even in his old age, trusted in the fulfillment of God’s promises. He saw in the infant Jesus a fulfillment of that prophesy. Even in his old age Simeon had desire for novelty. What about us? Are you aware that as Christians, we are supposed to be the dreamers of our time? This is because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4: 13). Though the promise may be long, it takes an eye of faith to see its fulfillment even in its humble beginnings. “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2: 3). Even Mary who was the bearer of the good news was astonished at what was being said about the child and she kept all these things in her heart. Our God is a faithful God. He does not change like a shifting spanner; He neither slumbers nor sleeps. “For l the Lord does not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob have not perished. Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me and l will return to you, says the Lord of host. But you say, how shall we return?” (Zechariah 3:6-7). Because He lives we can face tomorrow because He alone possesses the key to our future and so we can trust him. Life is worth living just because he lives. The songster says it all:
God sent His Son We call him Jesus
He came to die, heal and forgive
He lived and died
To buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove that my savior lives
Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
And now I know, yes l know
He holds the future and life is worth a living just because he lives.
That which God promised to Abraham is being fulfilled even today among us. In moments like this we can sit back and reflect on how God has blessed us. We can count our blessings and name them one by one because God has fulfilled his promise even in our time. Indeed God makes things new in his time. The promise is for those who can see; those who can put their past behind them and move on with their lives. Like Blind Bartimeaus (Mark 10: 46-52), let us ask God to make us see how He has blessed us and His future promise of given us a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:14) for what is the use of having eyes that cannot see?

(Luke 1:46-55)

When the angel Gabriel (1:26) told the young virgin Mary that she was going to have a child who would be the Son of God and reign over the house of Jacob forever (1:32f), she said, "How can this be?" He answered her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her so that the child's conception would be divine. And then he gave Mary the added confirmation that nothing is impossible with God by telling her that her kinswoman Elizabeth who was old and barren was also pregnant. So according to Luke 1:39 and following:
"Mary rose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe (that's little John the Baptist) leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting come to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord!"'
The angel had told Zechariah in Luke 1:15 that John the Baptist would be filled with the Spirit even from his mother's womb. That is, the Spirit of God would exercise a unique control on this man from the time he is in his mother's womb until he completes his ministry as a grown man. Then Luke gives evidence of this: Mary approaches carrying the Son of God in her womb and little John gives Elizabeth a good kick in the diaphragm. Then Luke says that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out: "Mary, my child is leaping for joy. The Holy Spirit has helped him before he can even speak to bear witness to the Lord in your womb."
That's all the confirmation Mary needs. She sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important three decades in all of time are about to begin. And where is God? Occupying Himself with two obscure, humble women-one old and barren, one young and virginal. And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song--a song that has come to be known as the Magnificat.
Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke's account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most, it appears, and the thing he wants to impress on Theophilus, his noble reader, is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth says (1:43): "And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me? And Mary says (1:48): The Lord has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden." The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary--people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.
I think we should notice one other way that Mary's godliness shows itself. Do you remember the story of Samuel and his mother Hannah? Hannah had no children and was abused by other women because of it and she prayed earnestly that the Lord would give her a son. And he did. Well in 1 Samuel 2 Hannah sings a song of praise which is very similar to Mary's song:
"Hannah also prayed and said, 'My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is
Exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in Thy salvation.
There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides Thee;
There is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly; let not arrogance come from your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were
Hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap,
To make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and on them He has set the world.
He will guard the feet of His faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in
For not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them He will
Thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; He will give strength to His king, and
Exalt the power of His anointed."
Did you hear the parallel expressions and ideas? For example:
Hannah (1 Samuel 2) Mary (Luke 1)
My heart exalts in the Lord
…I rejoice in Thy salvation v.46f
My soul magnifies the Lord; My
spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
There is none holy like the Lord. v.49
Holy is His name.
The bows of the mighty are broken
but the feeble gird on strength. v.52
He has put down the mighty from
their thrones, and exalted those
of low degree.
Those who were full have hired
themselves out for bread, but those
who were hungry have ceased to
hunger. v.53
He has filled the hungry with good
things, and the rich He has sent
away empty.
The parallels are not word for word, neither Mary nor Luke is quoting the Old Testament. Instead it seems to me that Mary is so steeped in Scripture that when she breaks out in praise the words that come naturally to her lips are the words of Scripture. Being a young woman she probably loved the stories of the Old Testament women of faith like Sarah, Deborah, Hannah, Ruth, and Abigail. What an admonition to us all, both women and men (young and old--Mary probably was not over 15): to steep our minds and hearts in the Scriptures day and night so that the words and thoughts of Scripture fill our mouths as naturally as they did Mary's.
How does a soul magnify God? A mouth magnifies God by saying, "God is magnificent," by speaking His praises. But no one hears a soul. No one but you and God. But I doubt that Mary means she is verbalizing a silent prayer. I think she means that at this moment her soul feels the greatness and holiness and mercy of God. And the feeling is primarily one of joy. "My spirit rejoices in God!" Two weeks ago I preached on Psalm 69:30, "I will magnify God with thanksgiving." Now we learn the truth that we also magnify God by rejoicing in Him. And just like I did then, I want to close now with this point: it is good news to learn that we magnify God by rejoicing in Him. It's good news because we are commanded to glorify or magnify God (1 Cor. 10:33; Romans 1:20f) and this command could be a terrible burden if we weren't told that the only way to fulfill it is to relax and be happy in the mercy of God. That is what magnifies God most.

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