Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.
Once again, I will begin by telling you that the verses we are studying today “The Magnificat” from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55), are among my favorite.
As regular readers of this Bible study series know, I have many favorites in the Old and New Testaments. However, The Magnificat (also referred to as “Mary’s Song”) is distinct because my husband and I recite it every night as part of our prayers. Perhaps its familiarity makes it more endearing? Yes, of course. But years ago the reason I suggested including it in our nightly prayers was because I loved the “voice” of Mary talking to and about God amid her most unusual circumstances that prompted the prayer.
For those unfamiliar with the story (and remember that I write this study for you), here is the pre-Magnificat background.
Mary is a young, unwed Jewish girl (likely still a teenager) who is told by the angel Gabriel that she is pregnant. "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34).
As if young Mary needs more complications, Gabriel informs her, “So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Yikes! No pressure!
And Mary’s reply to Gabriel is upheld as the model of obedience to God: “I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled" (Luke 1:38).
If interested, read in the Gospel of Matthew how Joseph, to whom Mary was pledged to be married, reacted to this scandalous news. (Spoiler: An angelic “intervention” was needed.)
Now that we are up to speed on the backstory, Mary, with precious cargo in her womb, travels to see her relative Elizabeth. The circumstances surrounding that visit are also holy and known as “The Visitation.” (Quickly, read it here, otherwise, I will get bogged down in that fascinating backstory.)
But, I must display the last sentence of Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!" (Luke 1:45), prompting The Magnificat:
And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever" (Luke 1:46-55).
You might want to read this prayer again and again for the layers of Godly wisdom.
Let’s start with the name “Magnificat.” It is Latin for “magnifies” and also “glorifies” — often used instead of “magnifies” in the opening verse of many translations including the popular NIV, which reads, “My soul glorifies the Lord…”
Regardless of the translation, Mary is praising the Lord with all her heart and soul, while celebrating and recognizing that God is her Savior. The word “Savior” is thought-provoking when considering that Mary is carrying the “Savior of the world.”
Mary also praises God for “favoring” her since she is of low social standing, “for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”
Note that I am using the New Revised Standard Version translation as the basis for this study since it is closer to what we recite nightly. But, I like the way NIV translates how Mary praises God’s recognition of her status, “for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
Mary may be humble, but she also knows that God has chosen her for His most important mission to mankind, saying, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;”
And then she thanks and praises Him, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
That verse especially applies to our lives. We must thank and praise Him for all he has done for us. And along with that, magnify and glorify Him.
Mary continues by acknowledging God’s permanence, along with the necessity for obedience by conducting oneself and living according to His will. “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”
She speaks of His mighty power that rules over the proud, the rich and the poor: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;”
Finally, Mary voices God’s eternal, merciful promise to Israel and His people:
“He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
The Blessed Mother Mary’s wisdom, devotion, and obedience to God expressed in the Magnificat is among the most heartfelt, emotional, and all-encompassing prayers in the Bible.
Therefore, I hope you have enjoyed learning about it (if for the first time) or re-familiarizing yourself with its poetic beauty and “living” message that we can incorporate into our lives.
Perhaps now too, you will be inspired to recite it daily.
Myra Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or on Twitter @MyraKAdams.