(The following is a talk he gave at the 2007 Saint Benedict Center Conference.)
THE MAGNIFICAT (Luke 1:46-55) Author: Mary, a transcendently beautiful Jewish maiden. Age: Fourteen. Home: Nazareth, in the province of Galilee, Palestine.Year of composition: Nine months before the Birth of Christ, or, from the Julian calendar, 753 years from the founding of the city of Rome (AUC).
On each of the four occasions when our Lady speaks in holy scripture, even when she asks a question, her words teach us magnificent things about God. This is especially true of the Magnificat , a canticle inspired by the Holy Ghost, and composed by Him through the mind of His immaculate spouse. The canticle stirred in Mary’s heart as a response to the reverent greeting that she had received from her cousin Elizabeth. “Whence is this to me,” Elizabeth had protested, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” To which Mary responded by chanting her canticle: My soul doth magnify the Lord . St. Louis de Montfort counts the Magnificat among the prayers that best characterize true devotion and perfect consecration to Mary. In his masterpiece, True Devotion to Mary , he extols the depths of meaning within the hymn: “Contained in it are mysteries so great and so hidden,” he says, “that even the angels do not understand them.” And, he encourages all Mary’s children to recite it after Holy Communion while they, too, for a brief time, are tabernacles of our Lord.
Our Lady’s exquisite hymn echoes in part the canticle of Anna, the mother of the prophet Samuel, which begins: My heart hath rejoiced (exultavit) in the Lord (1 Kings 2:1) The pious Anna’s story is told in the first two chapters of the Book of Kings. She, the wife of Elcana the priest, had been unable to conceive and, among the Jews of the Old Testament, this was a great disgrace. In the Book of Deuteronomy God had promised Moses that if the people keep His commandments no one of either sex would be barren (7:14).
God heard her prayer and her conception of a male child occasioned her canticle. The Exultavit of Anna is called the Magnificat of the Old Testament. Can we not imagine, also, that our Lady’s mother, St. Anne, chanted this hymn of her Old Testament namesake to her daughter Mary? There are also a couple of verses in the Magnificat that are taken from the Psalms of David and couple more that seem to borrow themes from the prophetic orations of Isaias.
The Magnificat bridges both Testaments; it closes the Old while it opens the New. It is, after the prayers of Holy Mass and Benediction, the most highly honored prayer of the sacred liturgy. In the ages of faith, when it was chanted in the divine office at Vespers, the monks would rise to sing it, and the smoke of incense would waft from thuribles. Pious writers record that at times certain privileged monks of eminent virtue have had visions of the Mother of God joining in with the choir song of the canticle, her voice putting their hearts in rapture with its celestial sweetness. The Magnificat was known through the centuries by various other titles, but my favorite is the Hymn of the Incarnation.
Before examining the ten verses of the Magnificat , it would be wise to first contemplate the stage from which its decachords were struck. After a long journey Mary has arrived at her cousin’s home about four miles west of Jerusalem. She has spoken to no one about the angel’s message, or her conception. She is anxious to speak of it to her cousin, and to assist her in the final stages of her own late pregnancy and parturition. The humble always greet first. Mary says, “Peace be to you, Elizabeth.”
What we do not know, until we read her response to Mary’s salutation, is that an angel has visited Elizabeth, too; for it was revealed to her that her kinswoman Mary is bearing the Son of God. “And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Mary is moved by charity to come to the aid of her kinswoman, and the unborn Baby Jesus is anxious to come to free John, His “angel” who is languishing in original sin. “Behold,” says the Lord through the prophet Malachias “I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face .” John “leaps for joy” as the Greek has it, because, as he would later tell his own disciples who questioned him about Christ: “the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice . This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:29). The face and the voice of God have now and forever taken on a human form. The virgin mother sings; the venerable Elizabeth adores; the friend of the bridegroom leaps for joy.
Mary loved the Lord her God with her whole soul, her whole mind, her whole heart, and with all her strength and, therefore, she lets her soul speak in the first person. My soul doth magnify the Lord . She alone, of the race of man, fulfilled perfectly that first commandment, which our Lord insisted upon as fundamental in His answer to an inquiring scribe. Mary is the Mother Inviolate, the Mirror of Justice, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, the Mystical Rose.
What is this magnification that her soul gives to the Lord God? First, it is a response to the praise she just received from her cousin. ‘You praise me, Elizabeth, but I magnify the Lord.’
Mary’s soul was full of grace from the moment of her conception, and with every act of love she magnified God’s likeness in her to a brighter and brighter degree – to such a degree that, as the light of the moon surpasses the light of all the stars, she magnified God more than all saints and angels put together. She made God larger, not intrinsically in His nature of course – for God is an infinite Spirit – but extrinsically, by reflecting His own vital operations within her most blessed soul, the masterpiece of His creation. If every time that we receive Holy Communion we magnify the presence of the God-man by the extension of His divine life within ourselves [And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me . (St. Paul to the Galatians)], how great, then, was the magnification of the Lord when His Immaculate Mother received Him!
Then, too, there is another magnification of the Lord occurring through Mary’s soul. What is that? The soul of Mary, as with all men, is the principle that gives her physical life. Unconsciously, within her body, her soul was nourishing the tiny Baby in her womb, magnifying the Son with the Flesh by which He would redeem the world. And, at the same time, the soul of Elizabeth was magnifying John the Baptist who, in his own self-effacing way would magnify the Lord when his mission as the Precursor came to an end with the solemn diminuendo: He, the Lamb of God, must increase, be magnified, and I must decrease.
And my spirit hath rejoiced (hath exulted) in God my Savior!
And my horn is exalted in my God . . . because I have joyed in thy salvation . (Anna’s canticle) [horn in SS is symbol of strength, glory, power] (1 K. 2:1)
But my soul shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall be delighted in his salvation (Ps. 34:9).
Our Lady distinguishes here her spirit from her soul. Her will, heart or spirit, rejoices in Him whom her soul, her intellect, magnifies.
Joy, gaudium , is more than the sensitive passion of felicitas, happiness; it is an expansion of the spirit in the faculty of the will. When the true Good is possessed, inchoatively by a living Faith, and consumately when Faith and Hope are put aside by the Beatific Vision, the fruit of this possession is joy. “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:23). Although Mary lived by Faith in her earthly exile, and, therefore, did not have in her intellect the beatific vision of God face to face, many saints have taught that she did have the beatific joy of possessing God in her heart as if she already lived in eternity. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour . . .” (Zach. 9:9).
How is it that she, who was without any sin, has called God her “Savior”? Jesus, in the Hebrew tongue, means “savior.” From her own language, this verse of Mary’s song would be literally rendered: My spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Jesus. The prophet Habacuc spoke similar praise: “But I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will joy in God my Jesus” (Hab. 3:18).
Jesus was both our Lady’s Savior and Redeemer. Our Lady’s preservation from original sin at the moment of her conception was a singular privilege that had to do with the manner in which she was uniquely redeemed. Our Lady’s “ransom” was paid by the blood of her Son, but she was not bought back from the devil, but prevented from ever falling under his power. The Church calls this singular privilege “preventive redemption.” When our Lady received baptism she received no cleansing from sin. Being full of grace from her Immaculate Conception, the sacrament could only increase her capacity for more grace. The grace she received was the grace of incorporation into her Son’s mystical Body, which, in her case, had a special quality attached to the baptismal character. In becoming a member of the Church, she also was deputed to be the Mother of the Church. She received that commission formally beneath the Cross when her divine Son said to her and St. John (and in the person of John the whole Church): Woman, behold thy son, behold thy mother . And she merited this commission. At that hour, and through the triduum of the Lord’s repose, she alone had unwavering faith. All others, even the beloved apostle, doubted. That is why our Lady did not go to the tomb Easter Sunday morning. It could never have been asked of her by an admonishing angel: “Why seek you the living among the dead?”
Another way of understanding this privilege is by way of a judicial act. In the fall of Adam all men were sentenced to everlasting separation from God. As a daughter of Adam, our Lady, too, would have been under that just sentence; however, in her case alone, when the time came for that sentence to be carried out – namely, at her conception – the execution of the sentence (as God preordained it from eternity) was directly rescinded by God. Thus it was foretold in Genesis, in the first of all prophecies, when God cursed the serpent: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Salvation is the act of being saved. Saved from what? Sin, original and mortal, and the second everlasting death it merits. If, then, our Blessed Lady knew no sin, and, therefore, was never at any moment “lost” and in need of being saved from perdition, how is God her “Savior”?
This can be answered in two ways. First, one can say that just as the good angels needed a Savior, even though they never sinned, so did Mary. How is Christ the Savior of the good angels? At their creation all the angels had sanctifying grace and the infused theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. In what, then, prior to the Incarnation, did the virtue of Faith consist for an angel? They had to believe in what God revealed to them, the mystery that they could not see by the use of their unaided intelligence: the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. And, there was one thing more. They had to believe in the mystery to come, the Incarnation of the Son of God and, thereby, worship God in a nature inferior to their own. “Adore him all you his angels” (Ps. 96:7). It was their love for God and their living Faith in the Savior, long before His incarnation, before the world was created, that merited salvation for these celestial spirits who never sinned. Too, it was Mary’s living Faith in the Savior, before she knew that she would be His Mother, which initiated the salvation of this unique maiden who, with far more Charity than the good angels, never sinned.
Second, God is Mary’s Savior on account of His being salvation itself. For, the good are not only saved from something evil (i.e., sin and hell), but saved in something Good (the Mystical Body of Christ and God’s eternal life). In this latter sense, most truly, God the Father is His immaculate daughter’s Savior, God the Son is His Mother’s redeeming Savior, and God the Holy Ghost is His spouse’s sanctifying Savior.
The mother of Samuel had prayed to God: “O Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid , . . . (1 Kings 1:11).
Behold ! The handmaid of the Lord delighting again to confess her nothingness before her Lord and Master, His handmaid . To “regard” in the sense of the inspired Greek word, epeblepsin , means “He has looked favorably upon.” What is this humility of which the Virgin Mother speaks? Is it her low estate? Or the virtue itself?
Some fathers have held that our Lady here was speaking of her own family’s seeming insignificance in comparison to more prominent Israelites. Yet Mary knew more than anyone how God loves and favors the poor and simple and is no respecter of persons. Mary also knew, and this is most important (we have it from the genealogies in Matthew and Luke), that both she and Joseph her espoused, poor as they were, were of the royal line of David. I remember Brother Francis offered me a very good reason for our Lady’s astonished surprise at the Annunciation. I am sure he heard it affirmed by Father Feeney. And it was this. Knowing that the time had come for the advent of the Messiah, and that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin — and never imagining that she would be so privileged as to be God’s chosen one — Mary wished to be that Virgin-Mother’s handmaid, and so she consecrated her own virginity to God in order to be worthy to serve her.
Another viewpoint is to take the words in their more common literal sense. For the essence of humility is not low self-esteem but a true knowledge of one’s self as one stands in the light of God’s truth. It is also the virtue that compels its possessor to walk in the light, as Christ commands, to perform works of charity, which are selfless. Tapeinos is the inspired Greek word, which the Latin renders as humilitas . Although it can mean one of low estate, its first meaning is that of the virtue itself. When our Lord said, learn of Me for I am meek and humble of heart, the same Greek word tapeinos is used, where it can only mean the virtue.
Behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Gabriel the Archangel has led the way for all generations and Saint Elizabeth has seconded the acclaim: Blessed art thou among women . This is the will of God that the Mother of His Son should be so honored. This is the will of Christ, the Child of Mary. “Let this mind be in you,” exhorts Saint Paul, “which is also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
How glorious is this word “blessed”! Yet, we take it for granted and too often give it a worldly sense. The word is not employed this way in the eight beatitudes. And what a bold assault by the biblical critics on the Logos Himself, Wisdom as Uttered in a Word, to corrupt the scriptures with the gross mistranslation of the Greek makarios as “happy.” Beatitude, even among the pagan Greeks, was “the favor of the gods.” For the members of Christ it is the supernatural favor of the one true God. It is the eye of God gazing with pleasure on the soul whom He has raised to His own likeness in grace, the very likeness of His Son, the God-man.
For He that is mighty has done great things (magna)
to me and holy is His Name.
Non nobis Domine, non nobis ! sed nomini tuo da gloriam (Ps. 113:9) To God be all the glory; this is the desire of the truly humble soul.
What are the “great things” that God the Mighty, El Shaddai , has done for His handmaid? First, and foremost, He has made her His mother. And, with that, and on account of that, He has preserved her from all sin and filled her soul with grace.
Outside of the Life of the Blessed Trinity, no divine act could be greater than the Incarnation of the Son of God, and no elevation of a creature could be greater than the Divine Maternity. This is God’s greatest act of omnipotence in the created order, His greatest act of “Might” if you will.
The Latin term for “great things” is magna . Towards the end of the hymn Mary praises the bona, the “good things” with which God feeds the hungry soul, but here, in her own regard, she cannot but speak in superlatives of the “great things” God has worked within her, things that are unknown as of yet to any but Elizabeth and her child.
“It is a great thing , writes Saint Bede the Venerable, for the Queen of Angels to be a virgin; it is a great thing for her to be a mother; it is greater thing for her to be a mother and a virgin at the same time; and it is a very great thing for her to be a virgin and the Mother of God; but what surpasses all else is that, great as she is, Mary considers herself as if she were nothing.”
The first thing that our Lord instructs us to pray for in the Our Father is that the Name of God be hallowed, which is to say that we keep His Name as it is, Holy. When the angel came to the handmaid of the Lord, how did he identify the Child that was to be born of her? “[T]he Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). He is “the Saint of saints” whose coming reign of everlasting justice was prophesied by Daniel. Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end. . . and the saint of saints may be anointed . (9:24) And, in the vision of the prophet Isaias, wherein he saw “the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated” (who is the Christ to come), what did he hear the seraphim chanting as they cried out to one another? “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus sabaoth . . .” (6:3). In this verse Mary reflects on the message of the angel. She is carrying “the Holy;” her Son is more than one who is holy, He is Holiness.
If we take the inspired Greek word, hagios , the word literally means “separated from the earth.” But we cannot define God as “He who is separated from the earth,” and “holiness” is an essential attribute of God. If we affirm, then, that God is separated from the earth we must mean in His essence, because spatially speaking, there is no place where God is not present. This essential “separation,” this ha-gios , is the principle of all divine attributes. It is God’s self-existence, His aseity. Thusly, He identified Himself to Moses: I am who am.
The Holy Name of God, hidden within the four Hebrew consonants YHWH, was so revered by the Jews of the Old Testament that its exact pronunciation was known only to the priests. Nor, was it permitted for them to utter it. In fact, so sacred was it that only the high priest could give it a voice — and that was only once a year before the Ark of the Covenant in the holy of holies of the temple on the Day of Atonement. In becoming man, the Son of God, “the Holy,” born of Mary, was given a Holy Name that we are all given the privilege to pronounce: “And thou shalt call His name Jesus .”
And His mercy is from generation unto
generation on those who fear Him.
“But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity and unto eternity upon them that fear him” (Ps. 102:17).
With this verse the Blessed Mary turns from the “great things” God has done for her to those mercies God has given and will give more abundantly to the whole world. This second part of the Magnificat is filled with prophetic analogies.
Fear of the Lord
What is this “fear of the Lord” that Mary lauds? It is, says the Psalmist, “the beginning of wisdom” (110:10). There is no virtue more often praised in the Bible, especially in the wisdom books, than the fear of the Lord. It is a dominant theme, with over two hundred verses applauding its importance as the foundation of true virtue. This one truth alone, namely, the equating of the gift of wisdom and fear of God, is repeated three times in the Old Testament. A few lesser known verses from Ecclesiasticus are well worth savoring: “How great is he that findeth wisdom and knowledge! but there is none above him that feareth the Lord ” (25:13), “He that feareth the Lord shall tremble at nothing, and shall not be afraid for he is his hope,” (34:16), “The fear of God is the beginning of his love” (25:16), and from the Psalms, “O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee” (30:20).
Although scores of New Testament passages could be quoted, St. Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians to “[be] subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (5:21), is sufficient to demonstrate the compatibility of a filial fear of God with a love of God. Nevertheless, Saint John the Apostle writes that “Fear is not in charity: but perfect charity casteth out fear, because fear hath pain. And he that feareth, is not perfected in charity.” (1 John 4:18-19). This kind of fear, however, which St. John finds unworthy of a perfected man of Christ, is servile fear. It is the fear of punishment to come. He would have it that all the faithful, who live in the love of God, have confidence and not dread punishment. This is the man who fears as a devoted son, filially, lest by sinning he lose the love of so good a Father.
Our Lady is not making any distinctions concerning the fear of the Lord in her Magnificat . She is praising the virtue as a salutary thing in itself. Whether it be servile or filial, the mercy of God will be upon those who fear Him.
He hath shown might in his arm.
These next two verses are coupled as fact and illustration. Isaias calls out to God to send His Holy One, the Messiah, using this same metaphor: “Arise, arise, put on strength, O thou arm of the Lord, arise as in the days of old, in the ancient generations. Hast not thou struck the proud one, and wounded the dragon?” (51:9) Since the Incarnation is God’s greatest act of omnipotence, the strength of God’s arm is the advent of His Son as man. Hear Isaias again: “The Lord hath prepared his holy arm . . . and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (52:10) As the arm is the instrument by which a man works, so is the human nature of Christ the instrument through which God exercises the “Might” of His mercy in the passion and death of His Son.
One of the exercises of the might of His arm is in the conversion of sinners through the grace of the Sanctifier, even as He exercises that arm through weak human instruments. “The conversion of a sinner into a just man,” St. Augustine wrote, “is a greater exercise of God’s power than is the creation of the world out of nothing.”
[H]e hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
As the fog is dissipated by the warm rays of the sun so are the proud scattered by Christ and His saints. Superbus in Latin, is the antithesis of humilis .
Although certainly a commemoration of Israel’s historic past, this verse is also a prophecy. Who are the proud whom Mary praises God for scattering? Yes, they are the pagan tyrants (past, present, and future): the pharaohs, Sennecheribs, Salmanasars, Antiochuses, Herods, Neros, and Stalins, but they include also all those who work in any capacity against the kingdom of God. From the scattering of the wicked angels, to the destruction of the holy city and those who would not recognize “the time of their visitation,” to the scattering of the sects spawned by the heresiarchs, to the end times and the crushing of the forces of antichrist, and the final scattering at the last judgment, the unrepentant proud will have no consolation, no end to their anguish, forced to embrace forever the conceit of their own hearts. discedite a me maledicti in ignem aeternum .
He hath put down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18) our Lord assured his excited seventy-two disciples upon their return from their first mission. Not as a passive spectator did He watch the ouster of the arch demon from the celestial paradise – no, for His seeing was His doing . This expulsion by the Creator of a creature required nothing but an act of God’s will. However, there would be a victory to come wherein the Incarnate Son of God would crush the power of the devil over mankind, a victory that would require an act of His arm far more mighty than the tossing of wicked angels into hell; this victory, this redeeming of mankind, would require a spiritual battle so grueling, so shuddering, that it would force the very blood from the pores of the God-man. It is the victory that began with the agony (painful struggle) in the Garden of Gethsemani, and was consummated on the Cross . The Cross, “[U]nto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the gentiles foolishness: but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God . . . and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1: 23-24).
“He humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause he has exalted him and given him a name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend . . .” (Phil. 2:8-9). He must first be ‘bruised for man’s iniquities’ before He is exalted in glory. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?” the risen Christ asked the two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:26)
As St. Paul taught, those who suffer in Christ will be glorified with Him. “And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him” (Romans 8:17).
No one suffered more in Christ than His immaculate mother. Our Lady of Sorrows, the most humble handmaid, would enter, too, into her glory through the crucible of interior agony: “They own soul a sword shall pierce.” She is exalted beyond words, Queen of heaven and earth. Mary is Virgin Most Powerful, the Morning Star, the Gate of Heaven, the Refuge of Sinners.
He hath filled the hungry with the good things.
[H]e hath filled the hungry soul with good things (Psalm 106:9).
What are the good things that Mary speaks of as she quotes this verse of the Psalms? Why has this verse struck her heart so favorably?
Our Lady speaks here of the “good things” that draw “hungry souls” to God: His gifts of grace and supernature. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill.” (Matt. 5:6) Justice, in its highest sense, is holiness, rendering to God the things that are God’s, even ourselves, body and soul.
To be filled with good things we must be hungry, our Lady tells us. No one was ever more hungry for God than His handmaid and Mother. No one was ever more filled with His good things. So full was she with holiness that the angel was compelled to address her, not as Mary, but as “Full of Grace.” What prompted this salutation ? The angel’s beatific knowledge prompted it. Having been “sent” from God, he found God already there with Mary: Dominus tecum. It was not a prayer but a statement of fact.
In praising God for His past beneficences was Mary considering some “good thing” to come that would satiate the hungry soul forever, or anticipate that eternal swallow of delight, which we call beatitude? “To him that shall overcome, I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of my God.” (Apoc. 2:7)
Before their fall, Adam and Eve preserved their immortality by eating the fruit of the tree of life. The Hebrews preserved their lives in the wilderness of the desert for forty years by eating the manna from heaven. Both were figures of the Bread of Life, the Holy Eucharist, the Great Gift, by which the hungry souls are fed with more than a good “thing” but the “Good One.”
“Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.” The Greek adjective, epiousion , is the same in both Matthew and Luke, although the Vulgate renders the verse in Luke as “daily bread.”
That the Eucharist is the highest fulfillment of this divine nourishment of which our Lady speaks is explicitly demonstrated in the Roman liturgy. Just prior to reciting the Pater Noster , there is a short prayer, bursting with Eucharistic exaltation, which the priest utters as he holds the sacred host in his hands and blesses It three times. It is a continuation of the doxology at the end of the litany in the Nobis Quoque Pecatoribus . . Per quem haec omnia Domine semper bona creas sanctificas, vivificas . (By whom O Lord (Christ), Thou dost always create, sanctify, quicken, bless, and bestow upon us all these good things.) Vivificas means to vivify (or “quicken” as the old English has it.) The bread and wine are no longer dead elements but LIVING BREAD and LIVING WINE, the glorious Christ physically present in each separate species.
Too often we think of might in physical images. But there is nothing more mighty than the frail host of the Eucharist – as Father Feeney put it: the easily-broken bread, the easily spilled cup . This is the ultimate execution of the “might of His arm” before which the proud are scattered and the devil vanquished. Speaking of Magna and Bona , this Bread is the Magnum Bonum , the Magnum Donum . How powerful is this that our Almighty God can feed all of His children with His own Body! Pie pellicane, Iesu Domine, me immundum munda / tuo sanguine.
Eucharist means “good thanks.” Let the hungry soul partake. And to those who are ignorant, or do not believe, let us direct them to Christ, as did St. John the Baptist, with these words of invitation: “There hath stood one in the midst of you whom you know not.” (John 1:26)
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
Why hath the rich been sent away empty? The rich in this context are those who not only have worldly riches, but hoard them in avarice, and refuse to acknowledge their own poverty of soul. These are not hungry for justice, so they will wallow in vagrancy of mind, unsatiated, restless, and unhappy.
Our Lord did not love the poor simply because of their poverty but because of their manly humility and rugged detachment. “What did you go out [into the desert] to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings” (Matt. 11:8). Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven .
Some six hundred years before the event Isaias rejoiced to see it. Quoting the words of His prophet our Lord told the disciples of John the Baptist to go and report to him what they had seen: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them . ” (Matt. 11:5)
Are there other types who fall under this category of “rich” who may not have much by way of material wealth? Anyone who rejects the poverty of Christ, who is scandalized by His humility and, ultimately, by His cross, is an enemy to poverty of spirit.
He hath received Israel His servant Mindful of His mercy. . .
This verse introduces the last part of the Magnificat , which praises God for His fidelity to His promises. Suscepit (translated he hath received in the Douay) can also mean to “lift up” or “rescue.” The Greek verb is Antelabeto, which also means to “lift up.” In this, God is always mindful of His mercy to Israel. The Church is the New Israel. She has been laid low as never before, more despised, more wounded, than ever before. But God is faithful. Suscipiat, Domine, hanc ecclesiam tuam. Let us take solace in this verse of hope, given to the Church by our peerless Mother.
The Good Shepherd will not forsake His sheep. They are His “little ones.” “Israel,” the Lord instructs Moses to say to Pharoah, “is my son, my firstborn.” Puer is the Latin word for “servant.” Suscepit Israel puerum suum . It is more often translated “boy child” to distinguish it from filius , which means a “son” in general.
Puer is for a man what ancilla is for a woman. The Son of God in becoming man, emptied Himself, St. Paul said, “taking the form of a servant.” (Phil. 2:7). The Eternal Word became a child, a puer , in order to make us children of God. Puer natus est nobis “A child is born unto us.” Filius datus est nobis ! “A Son is given to us.” (Isaias 9:6)
. . . as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever
“And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matt. 3:9)
The name of Abraham is cited sixty-eight times in the New Testament, so prominent is he as the exemplar of the man of unwavering faith. As the Church is the New Israel, the children of the Church are the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise of blessing. Hear St. Paul: “Not they that are the children of the flesh are the children of God; but they that are the children of the promise are accounted for the seed.” (Rom. 9:8)
“And if you be Christ’s, then are you the seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) It is so important in our day to stress this truth. Our union with the Blessed Seed of Abraham, Christ, spiritually through faith and baptism, and concorporeally through Holy Communion, make His members in the Mystical Body the children of Abraham, literally, in every sense of the word.
“Give praise to Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Ps. 117:1) This verse is one of the most commonly repeated refrains in so many songs of praise in the Old Testament. From Paralipomenon to the Maccabees, and especially in the Psalms, God’s goodness is coupled with His mercy. Should it be any surprise that the Mother of God emphasizes both in her Magnificat ? She is the Mater Misericordiae . Now, as Mediatrix of all graces, and Mother of the Church, the words of Mary’s canticle can be understood more in relation to her maternal prerogatives. She has been given the power to show the might of His arm. She has been given the power to put down the mighty proud ones and exalt the humble. She has been given the power to fill the hungry with graces. She has been given the power to lift up and rescue the Church, the New Israel, and save poor sinners, especially in these latter days. She made it ever so clear at Fatima. “To save them [poor sinners] God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” And, again, in a 1957 interview with the Mexican priest, Father Augustine Fuentes, Sister Lucia stressed that our Lady made her and her cousins understand that “God is giving two last remedies to the world. These are the Holy Rosary and Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These are the last two remedies, which signify that there will be no others.”
Finally, there is the message of our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego, to whom she came, as she did to Elizabeth, WITH CHILD. In this most tender communication we see the Magnificat translated into incarnational terms. Listen to the words of Mary, Mother of the Church, and let them penetrate your heart as she magnifies the Lord in all who will respond to her maternal solicitations:
My dear little son, Juan Diego. Listen and let it penetrate your heart. Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?