Year of Mercy: Magnificat

Year of Mercy: Magnificat

In response to the news from Gabriel that she was to bear the Son of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Gospel of Luke tells us, declared ‘My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour…’ Her words, found in Luke 1:46-55, have been sung by Christians ever since. The Magnificat (the song takes its name from the first word in the Latin translation)is undoubtedly a song of praise, thanksgiving and adoration.

Mary gives praise to God for the Good News he has revealed to her and offers up her thanks for the blessings which he has bestowed; her Precious Son exalts her station above all others and hence she can say ‘all generations will call me blessed.’

However, in her adoration of God Mary gives a second bit of news to those same generations: God’s ‘mercy is on those that fear him.’ Indeed this should be clear to those who have seen his works: he has put forth his mighty arm and scattered the proud, put down the mighty, despoiled the rich and protected his people Israel, his faithful and fearful servants who cling to him above all else.

The works of God are indeed frightful things: earth shattering and civilisation ending acts that anyone would rightly dread happening to them. But isn’t this wrath rather than mercy? It is important to pay attention to what Mary said: ‘his mercy is on those who fear him.’

Indeed it is right, for the people who despoil God’s poor are wicked and sinful men. They are truly sons of perdition, and indeed did God not despoil that man of perdition, the devil, through the Incarnation of his Son and the offering of Love on the Cross? The Devil, twisted by pride, could not understand the extent of God’s love for man; this is why in his encounter with the Incarnate Christ he hoped his temptations would lure Jesus from his mission and break the bond between Father and Son. So great was the Devil’s pride that he thought he could break God. Knowing God as we do, then, we should fear losing the understanding our faith gives us, lest we exchange it for the Devil’s distorted vision and follow him on the path to destruction. As the Lord himself put it: ‘whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea’ (Matt. 18:6).

As Psalm 4 puts it: ‘Fear him; do not sin.’ We manifest our fear by putting our hope in the Cross of Christ and by acknowledging that it is by his Grace that we are saved. Without Christ we are found lowly but with him we are magnified and all generations will call us blessed.