THE CANTICLE OF MARY
(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY – Sunday, 14 August 2022)
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-56
First Reading: Revelation 11:19;12:1-6,10; Psalms: Psalm 45:10-12,16; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 15:20-26
The Scripture Text
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has regarded the low estate of His hand maiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home. (Luke 1:39-56 RSV)
Mary’s canticle – the Magnificat – is a prayer of faith, just as Mary herself is a model of faith and prayer for all of us. Elizabeth confirmed this when she was moved by the Holy Spirit to cry out, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45). Mary’s trust in God was ultimately fulfilled in the event we celebrate today, when she was taken up body and soul into heaven. Her assumption is the crowning event in the life of a humble, trusting, and prayerful woman.
The Magnificat – Mary’s hymn of praise in response to Elizabeth’s greeting – shows us some principles for our own prayer. Mary’s prayer is perhaps the most humble prayer recorded in scripture. In it, Mary acknowledged the truth about who God is and who she is before Him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “humility is the foundation of prayer” (CCC, 2559). It certainly was the foundation of Mary’s canticle, as she confessed that God “Has regarded the low estate of His hand maiden …… for He who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:48,49).
Mary’s prayer is also one of great faith. She trusted in what God would do for her, and throughout her life remained confident of His mercy and kindness (Luke 1:50). She trusted that God would exalt the lowly of this world and that He would be faithful to all His promises (Luke 1:52-53,55). Mary’s canticle is a beautiful demonstration of the fact that we do not have to do great public deeds to please God, nor do we have to expound lengthily on deep theological issues. By following Mary’s example of loving the Lord, trusting Him, and walking humbly in His presence, we can all be pleasing to Him.
As we (you and I) come before the Lord each day in personal prayer, we must try to recall Mary’s example of humility and faith. With her, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we also will be able to declare that “God who is mighty has done great things for me; holy is His name.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You raised Your daughter Mary through her assumption into heaven. Help me to come before You in humility and loving trust, as she did. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, fill me with the depth of faith that Mary had. Amen.
Jakarta, 13 August 2022
A Christian Pilgrim