THE MAGNIFICAT: Part III of IV
“He hath showed might in His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts. 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.” Luke 1:51-53
1. Here more than ever does one hear in Mary’s words an echo of the Old Testament. She seems again to be linking up the past with the future; the past with its constant record of the proud being brought low, and the lowly and crushed being again restored: and the future, still more explicitly portrayed in the thanksgiving prayer of our Lord: “I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto little ones.” And again by St. Paul: “The weak things of this world hath God chosen to confound the strong, that no flesh may glory in his sight.”
2. But above all, these words, like the rest of the Magnificat, must be referred specially to the Incarnation. It is as if Our Lady said: “By the Incarnation God hath shown His might, by it He has scattered the proud. By it He hath put down the mighty, by it He hath exalted the humble,” etc. And St. Paul applies this with even greater point, first to our Lord Himself, and then by imitation to all Christianity, when he says:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, [did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at], but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man and in habit found as man. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus is in the glory of God the Father.”
3. In the first of these three verses Our Lady does but speak of the victory of the Incarnation over evil. In the second she repeats that proclamation of victory, and then of its championing of the lowly. In the third she speaks of the positive good the Incarnation does, and this she now puts in the first place. “He hath filled the hungry with good things.” The hungering past is now satisfied; hungry nature has now found what it wants. She anticipates the blessings of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice” etc. She anticipates the constant cries and promises of our Lord: “Come to me all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” “He that is thirsty, let him come to me and drink,” and last, and greatest of all, she foreshadows that great fruit of the Incarnation, the Blessed Sacrament: “My body is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me and I in him.” Indeed God “hath filled the hungry with good things” by means of the Incarnation!
Summary Mediation Points:
1. “He hath showed might in His arm,” etc. “The weak things of this world hath God chosen to confound the strong.”
2. “He hath put down the mighty,” etc. And hath exalted the humble, above all the self-humbled Jesus Christ, and whoever will follow Him.
3. “He hath filled the hungry with good things,” etc. the hungry past, hungry nature, the hungry future, above all those who hunger for Christ incarnate.
Art: The Visitation, Lorenzo Monaco, between 1405 and 1410, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Mirror of Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J., www.stmaryscadoganstreet.co.uk, all rights reserved, used with permission.