“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” (Lk 1:46-49).
These verses from Luke are the beginning of the Canticle of Mary also known as the Magnificat. These words are recited or chanted daily each evening for those who pray Vespers or Evening Prayer for the Liturgy of the Hours. We are still able to read and recite these words, again and again, generation after generation because Mary and Elizabeth were moved by the Holy Spirit and acted upon his leading. They did not remain silent, they did not hold back their words for fear of being rejected. Mary went in haste to come to be with Elizabeth, she did not hesitate and think things over. She was clear and she went.
Mary’s words of greeting were heard by John and he leaped in the womb of Elizabeth who then, moved by the Holy Spirit, confirmed the encounter of the Annunciation when she said: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). Mary then responded glorifying the Lord for what God had done for her, for us, for the whole created order.
Present in this hymn of praise, thanksgiving, and hope, are words that we can make our own. We too can proclaim “the greatness of the Lord”. We do so by thanking God for what he has done in our lives, as St Irenaeus did so when he recognized this and wrote that God sent his Son to open up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.
Mary is called blessed because she followed the will of God and points all generations to her Son, directing not only the attendants at the wedding feast of Cana but all of us as well to “do whatever he tells you” (cf. Jn 2:5).
We have the opportunity to rejoice with Mary today by reading and praying with Mary’s Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56). The best way to prepare and celebrate the birth of Jesus is to be willing to hear and do whatever Jesus tells us, such as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:30-31).
Loving our neighbors also means loving our enemies. This includes anyone that really gets under our skin. We need to learn again how to have civil and respectful dialogue. We can disagree but still respect one another without belittling or dehumanizing. We can listen to one another’s points of view, without shouting at or over one another. By doing so, maybe we can learn from one another again. How about packaging up a nice fruit basket made up of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, and understanding, and placing it under the tree this year for Christmas?
Photo of Mary by Moisés Becera. Roma, Italy cathopic.com