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My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord

The Angel began the salutation; he said, “Hail, thou that art highly favored; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” Again, he said, “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God; and, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” Her cousin Elizabeth was the next to greet her with her appropriate title. Though she was filled with the Holy Spirit at the time she spoke, yet, far from thinking herself by such a gift to be equal to Mary, she was thereby moved to use the lowlier and more reverent language. “She spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” … Then she repeated, “Blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Then it was that Mary expressed her feelings in the Magnificat we read in the Evening Service. How many and complicated must they have been! In her was now to be fulfilled that promise which the world had been looking out for during thousands of years. The Seed of the woman, announced to guilty Eve, after long delay, was at length appearing upon earth, and was to be born of her. In her the destinies of the world were to be reversed, and the serpent’s head bruised. On her was bestowed the greatest honor ever put upon any individual of our fallen race. God was taking upon Him her flesh, and humbling Himself to be called her offspring;—such is the deep mystery! She of course would feel her own inexpressible unworthiness; and again, her humble lot, and her weakness in the eyes of the world. And she had moreover, that purity and inno­cence of heart, that bright vision of faith, that confid­ing trust in her God, which raised all these feelings to an intensity which we, ordinary mortals, cannot understand. We cannot understand them; we repeat her hymn day after day—yet consider for an instant how differently we say it from how she first uttered it. We even hurry it over, and do not think of the meaning of those words which came from the most highly favored, awfully gifted of the children of men. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of His hand-maiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.”

This article is taken from a chapter in Meditations on Mary, Our Mother by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, which is available from TAN Books.

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