As we continue our look at Mary’s words in the Bible, the scene shifts from Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (the Annunciation) and moves to her visit with Elizabeth (the Visitation). After traveling in haste to be with her pregnant relative, Mary is greeted with the words:
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45)
Mary, in turn, responds with the great prayer that we’ve come to know as the Magnificat:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”(Luke 1:46-55)
By listening to Mary’s words and studying this visit with Elizabeth, we see a concise overview of our Blessed Mother’s virtues. Let’s examine some of them:
1. Mary’s Humility – The humility of the Blessed Mother can be seen in her response to Elizabeth’s words of praise. Instead of accepting the compliments and taking full credit for her “being blessed”, Mary instead praises the Lord. She knows that God is the source of her goodness. That is TRUE humility!
2. Mary’s Gratitude – The words of Mary’s prayer illustrate her gratitude to Almighty God. Beginning with the initial proclamation of joy for her salvation (Mary needed a savior, but as written by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus, she was saved “by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Christ”), we see someone who is very grateful for God’s unmerited gift. Basing her remaining words on the Song of Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-10) and other Old Testament passages, Mary uses her knowledge of Scripture to express a deep appreciation for the Lord’s benevolence.
3. Mary’s Love For Her Neighbor – As soon as Mary discovered that Elizabeth was pregnant, she went “with haste” (Lk 1:39) to visit her. Not worrying about the inconvenience that goes along with being pregnant and traveling to the hill country, Mary put the needs of Elizabeth ahead of her own comfort. As a further example of her concern for the well being of others, Mary stayed with her elderly relative for 3 months (Lk 1:56) before returning home. When one considers what was going on in her own life, Mary’s actions provide us with a tremendous example of what it means to “love thy neighbor” without counting the cost.
4. Mary’s Faith - Giving us further scriptural proof that Mary embraced and believed the incredulous words of Gabriel, Elizabeth proclaimed “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45) In his book The Glories Of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori stated that “it was as a tribute to her faith that Elizabeth called Our Lady blessed.” Mary trusted fully in God and did whatever He asked, thus giving credibility to her words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”!
5. Mary’s Obedience - Although some people are disturbed by the term “fear of the Lord”, Mary understands the true meaning of the concept. When she states “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him”, the Blessed Mother acknowledges the importance of obeying God’s commandments as an expression of love! Those who truly love the Lord have a fear of being separated from Him or letting Him down. That desire to please Him results in obedience. According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, obedience “springs from the love of an order and of Him who gave it…Obedience is servility only to those who have not understood the spontaneity of love.” (The World’s First Love) Mary reminds us that we should obey the Lord because we love Him and don’t want to disappoint Him!
As we read through the words of Mary’s Magnificat, we see a heartfelt profession of faith from someone who was grateful for God’s mercy and providence in her life. Too often, we take the Lord’s mercy for granted and don’t trust in His providence. May our Blessed Mother intercede for us and help us to love God with all our hearts and truly “rejoice in Jesus Christ, Our Savior”!