December 22, 2012
The “Magnificat” – from the first word of the hymn – is Mary’s song of thanksgiving and praise. It has passed into church use as a song of victory and thanksgiving, and finds its best expression wherever ordinary people find themselves doing extraordinary things !
As Luke composed it, the song is full of scriptural allusions from the Old Testament. Perhaps most of all it is like Hannah’s song in the first book of Samuel, when Hannah learns she will bear a child.
The first stanza extols the fruits of faith and of lowly dependence on the mercies of God. Luke has already cast Mary as the handmaid of the Lord. The Almighty cares for the lowly, and deals generously with them, and because of this, Mary is blessed forever.
The second stanza presents the great reversals of salvation history: to be saved one must be in need; to be filled one must be hungry; to be raised one must be lowly. God has no patience with the proud of heart.
The final stanza takes a cue from the passages of the Servant of God in the Second Isaiah prophecy. God has made his promises to Israel, and he will be faithful to whatever he has promised. His mercies will never cease.
As a piece of poetry, the Magnificat reads a little heavily, so loaded is it with scriptural texts. But it expresses a deep emotion and strong conviction. Wherever men and women have risen from oppression and re-discovered God on their side, Mary’s victory song has been sung, and will continue to be evermore.
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