Monday, March 9, 2015

The Magnificat: Prayer of the Blessed Virgin Mary - and of Holy Mother Church!

The “Magnificat” or Song of the Blessed Virgin Mary Luc. 1, 46–55

The Magnificat is one of the most beautiful and consoling prayers. It is wondrously appropriate to remember that Our Lady is a type of the Church. As such we can read this prayer as if it were being prayed by the Church Herself. Prayerfully and lovingly imagine the Church, after these long millennia of trial, struggle, suffering, and triumph singing in soft, loving tones, this hymn to Her heavenly Spouse – Christ the King.

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced * in God my Saviour.
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid * for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed.
For He that is mighty hath done great things to me * and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation to generation * unto them that fear Him.
He hath shown might in His arm * He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat * and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things * and the rich He hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant * being mindful of His mercy.
As He spoke unto our fathers * to Abraham and his seed forever.

Below is the commentary of the Church Fathers from the Catena Aurea 

 46. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.
AMBROSE; As evil came into the world by a woman, so also is good introduced by women; and so it seems not without meaning, that both Elisabeth prophesies before John, and Mary before the birth of the Lord. But it follows, that as Mary was the greater person, so she uttered the fuller prophecy. 

BASIL; For the Virgin, with lofty thoughts and deep penetration, contemplates the boundless mystery, the further she advances, magnifying God; And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. 

GREEK EX. As if she said, Marvellous things has the Lord declared that He will accomplish in my body, but neither shall my soul be unfruitful before God. It becomes me to offer Him the fruit also of my will, for inasmuch as I am obedient to a mighty miracle, am I bound to glorify Him who performs His mighty works in me. 

ORIGEN; Now if the Lord could neither receive increase or decrease, what is this that Mary speaks of, My soul doth magnify the Lord? But if I consider that the Lord our Saviour is the image of the invisible God, and that the soul is created according to His image, so as to be an image of an image, then I shall see plainly, that as after the manner of those who are accustomed to paint images, each one of us forming his soul after the image of Christ, makes it great or little, base or noble, after the likeness of the original so when I have made my soul great in thought, word, and deed, the image of God is made great, and the Lord Himself whose image it is, is magnified in my soul.

 47. And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.
BASIL; The first-fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy. Because then the holy Virgin had drunk in all the graces of the Spirit, she rightly adds, And my spirit has leaped for joy. She means the same thing, soul and spirit. But the frequent mention of leaping for joy in the Scriptures implies a certain bright and cheerful state of mind in those who are worthy. Hence the Virgin exults in the Lord with an unspeakable springing (and bounding) of the heart for joy, and in the breaking forth into utterance of a noble affection It follows, in God my Saviour. 

THEOPHYL; Because the spirit of the Virgin rejoices in the eternal Godhead of the same Jesus (i.e. the Saviour,) whose flesh is formed in the womb by a temporal conception. 

AMBROSE; The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that he may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul receives the word of God if only he be unspotted and free from sin, and preserves it with unsullied purity. 

THEOPHYL. But he magnifies God who worthily follows Christ, and now that he is called Christian, lessens not the glory of Christ by acting unworthily, but does great and heavenly things; and then the Spirit (that is, the anointing of the Spirit) shall rejoice, (i.e. make him to prosper,) and shall not be withdrawn, so to say, and put to death. 

BASIL; But if at any time light shall have crept into his heart, and loving God and despising bodily things he shall have gained the perfect standing of the just, without any difficulty shall he obtain joy in the Lord. 

ORIGEN; But the soul first magnifies the Lord, that it may afterwards rejoice in God; for unless we have first believed, we can not rejoice.

 48. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

GREEK EX. She gives the reason why it becomes her to magnify God and to rejoice in Him, saying, For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden; as if she said, "He Himself foresaw, therefore I did not look for Him." I was content with things lowly, but now am I chosen to counsels unspeakable, and raised up from the earth to the stars. 

AUG. O true lowliness, which has borne God to men, has given life to mortals, made new heavens and a pure earth, opened the gates of Paradise, and set free the souls of men. The lowliness of Mary was made the heavenly ladder, by which God descended upon earth. For whet does regarded mean but "approved;" For many seem in my sight to be lowly, but their lowliness is not regarded by the Lord. For if they were truly lowly, their spirit would rejoice not in the world, but in God. 

ORIGEN; But why was she lowly and cast down, who carried in her womb the Son of God? Consider that lowliness which in the Scriptures is particularly praised as one of the virtues, so called by the philosophers "modestia." And we also may paraphrase it, that state of mind in which a man instead of being puffed up, casts himself down. 

THEOPHYL, But she, whose humility is regarded, is rightly called blessed by all; as it follows, For, behold, from henceforth all shall call me blessed. ATHAN. For if as the Prophet says, Blessed are they who have seed in Sion, and kinsfolk in Jerusalem, how great should be the celebration of the divine and ever holy Virgin Mary, who was made according to the flesh, the Mother of the Word? 

GREEK EX. She does not call herself blessed from vain glory, for what room is there for pride in her who named herself the handmaid of the Lord? But, touched by the Holy Spirit, she foretold those things which were to come. 

THEOPHYL, For it was fitting, that as by the pride of our first parent death came into the world, so by the lowliness of Mary should be opened the entrance into life. 

THEOPHYL. And therefore she says, all generations, not only Elisabeth, but also every nation that believed.

49. For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name.

THEOPHYL. The Virgin shows that not for her own virtue is she to be pronounced blessed, but she assigns the cause saying, For he that is mighty has magnified me. 

AUG. What great things has He done to you; I believe that a creature you gave birth to the Creator, servant you brought forth the Lord, that through you God redeemed the world, through you He restored it to life. 

TITUS BOS. But where are the great things, if they be not that I still a virgin conceive (by the will of God) overcoming nature. I have been accounted worthy, without being joined to a husband, to be made a mother, not a mother of any one, but of the only-begotten Savior.

THEOPHYL; But this has reference to the beginning of the hymn, where it is said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. For that soul can alone magnify the Lord with due praise, for whom he deigns to do mighty things. 

TITUS BOS; But she says, that is mighty, that if men should disbelieve the work of her conception, namely, that while yet a virgin, she conceived, she might throw back the miracles upon the power of the Worker. Nor because the only-begotten Son has come to a woman is He thereby defiled, for holy is his name.

 BASIL. But holy is the name of God called, not because in its letters it contains any significant power, but because in whatever way we look at God we distinguish his purity and holiness. 

THEOPHYL; For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be "apart from the earth."

50. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

THEOPHYL; Turning from God's special gifts to His general dealings, she describes the condition of the whole hole human race, And his mercy is from generation to generation on them that fear him. As if she said, Not only for me has He that is mighty done great things, but in every nation he that fears God is accepted by Him. 

ORIGEN; For the mercy of God is not upon one generation, but extends to eternity from generation to generation. 

GREEK EX. According to the mercy which He has upon generations of generations, I conceive, and He Himself is united to a living body, out of mercy alone undertaking our salvation. Nor is His mercy shown indiscriminately, but upon those who are constrained by the fear of Him in every nation; as it is said, upon those who fear him, that is, upon those who being brought by repentance are turned to faith and renewal for the obstinate unbelievers have by their sin shut against themselves the gate of mercy. 

THEOPHYL. Or by this she means that they who fear shall obtain mercy, both in that generation, (that is, the present world,) and the generation which is to come, (i.e. the life everlasting.) For now they receive a hundred-fold, but hereafter far more.

 
51. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

THEOPHYL; In describing the state of mankind, she shows what the proud deserve, and what the humble; saying, He has shown strength with his arm, &c. i.e. with the very Son of God. For as your arm is that whereby you work, so the arm of God is said to be His word by whom He made the world 

ORIGEN; But to those that fear Him, He has done mighty things with His arm; though you come weak to God if you have feared Him you shall obtain the promised strength. 

THEOPHYL. For in His arm, that is, His incarnate Son, He has shown strength, seeing that nature was vanquished, a virgin bringing forth, and God becoming man. 

GREEK EX. Or she says, Has shown, for will show strength; not as long ago by the hand of Moses against the Egyptians, nor as by the Angel, (when he slew many thousand of the rebel Assyrians,) nor by any other instrument save His own power, He openly triumphed, overcoming spiritual enemies. Hence it follows, he has scattered, &c. that is to say, every heart that was puffed up and not obedient to His coming He has laid bare, and exposed the wickedness of their proud thoughts. 

CYRIL OF JERUS. But these words may be more appropriately taken to refer to the hostile ranks of the evil spirits. For they were raging on the earth, when our Lord's coming put them to flight, and restored those whom they had bound, to His obedience. 

THEOPHYL. This might also be understood of the Jews whom He scattered into all lands as they are now scattered.

 
52. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

THEOPHYL; The words, He has showed strength with his arm, and those which went before, And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation, must be joined to this verse by a comma only. For truly through all generations of the world, by a merciful and just administration of Divine power, the proud do not cease to fall, and the humble to be exalted. As it is said, He has put down the mighty from their seat, he has exalted the humble and meek. 

CYRIL; The mighty in knowledge were the evil spirits, the Devil, the wise ones of the Gentiles, the Scribes and Pharisees; yet these He has put down, and raised up those who humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God; giving them the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy. The Jews were also at one time puffed up with power, but unbelief slew them, and the mean and lowly of the Gentiles have through faith climbed up to the highest summit. 

GREEK EX. For our understanding is acknowledge d to be the judgment-seat of God, but after the transgression, the powers of evil took their seat in the heart of the first man as on their own throne. For this reason then the Lord came and cast out the evil spirits from the seat of our will, and raised up those who were vanquished by devils, purging their consciences, and making their hearts his own dwelling place.

 53. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away.

GLOSS. Because human prosperity seems to consist chiefly in the honors of the mighty and the abundance of their riches, after speaking of the casting down of the mighty, and the exalting of the humble, he goes on to tell of the impoverishing of the rich and the filling of the poor, He has filled the hungry, &c.

BASIL; These words regulate our conduct even with respect to sensible things, teaching the uncertainty of all worldly possessions, which are as short lived as the wave which is dashed about to and fro by the violence of the wind. But spiritually all mankind suffered hunger except the Jews; for they possessed the treasures of legal tradition and the teachings of the holy prophets. But because they did not rest humbly on the Incarnate Word they were sent away empty, carrying nothing with them neither faith nor knowledge, and were bereft of the hope of good things, being shut out both of the earthly Jerusalem and the life to come. But those of the Gentiles, who were roughs low by hunger and thirst, because they clung to the Lord, were filled with spiritual goods. 

GLOSS. They also who desire eternal life with their whole soul, as it were hungering after it, shall be filled when Christ shall appear in glory; but they who rejoice in earthly things, shall at the end be sent away emptied of all happiness.


54. He has received his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55. As he spoke to our fathers, Abraham, and to his seed for ever.


GLOSS. After a general mention of the Divine mercy and holiness, the Virgin changes the subject to the strange and marvelous dispensation of the new incarnation, saying, He has holpen his servant Israel, &c. as a physician relieves the sick, becoming visible among men, that He might make Israel (i.e. him who sees God) His servant. 

THEOPHYL; That is, obedient and humble; for he who disdains to be made humble, cannot be saved. 

BASIL; For by Israel she means not Israel after the flesh, whom their own title made noble, but the spiritual Israel, which retained the name of faith, straining their eyes to see God by faith.

THEOPHYL. It might also be applied to Israel after the flesh, seeing that out of that body multitudes believed. But this he did remembering His mercy, for He has fulfilled what he promised to Abraham, saying, For in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise then the mother of God called to mind, saying, As he spoke to out father Abraham; for it was said to Abraham, I will place my covenant, that I shall be your God, and the God of your seed after you. 

THEOPHYL; But by seed he means not so much those who are begotten in the flesh, as those who have followed the steps of Abraham's faith, to whom the Savior's coming was promised for evermore. 

GLOSS. For this promise of heritage shall not be narrowed by any limits, but to the very end of time there shall never lack believers, the glory of whose happiness shall be everlasting.