And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
This canticle, also known as the song of Mary, is famous all over the world as the Magnificat. It is frequently recited within the Catholic Church and major Protestant denominations, which should tell the smaller break-aways something. But this reflection is not about the universality of Mary, but something that I found pretty fascinating. Her spontaneous outbreak of praise.
Breaking out into spontaneous praise does not come to somebody unless they have been accustomed to praising God. And composing songs on the spur of the moment also does not come easily unless one is habitually in worship. As for quoting Scripture, as anyone will tell you, this can happen only if one spends a lot of time hearing or reading Scripture.
All of this suggests that Mary is a young woman who spends a lot of time in the presence of God, praising and worshipping him, and despite her young age, she has a knowledge of Scripture that goes beyond the ordinary. When Elizabeth greets her warmly with the words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42), the Holy Spirit propels Mary to burst forth in song.
And what a beautiful song it is. There are allusions to the Song of Hannah from the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10) as well as echoes from the Pentateuch (that’s the Torah) and the writings of the prophets. She begins by rejoicing at the privilege of being the mother to the Savior, then glorifies God for his power and majesty, continues by looking forward to the wonderful things he will do, and concludes by testifying to his faithfulness.
How does a young girl achieve all this? Undoubtedly by having a set of blessed parents who have brought her up in the ways of God since she was an infant. Although we look after the material needs of our children today, there are very few who look after their spiritual requirements. Perhaps this reflection can inspire the new parents watching this to bring up their children the Mary way.
And indeed, they will be called blessed.