The Magnificat, Mary and Ourselves as Mystic-Prophets

In addition to the “Hail Mary” that is built on the Annunciation scene in the gospels, one can also meditate on Mary’s own prayer which we call the “Magnificat” attributed to her in Luke 1.46-55.

“Et exultavit spiritus meus” Sharon Carty Mezzo-soprano, Christopher Ellis (Cello), and John O’Keeffe (Organ) perform the Aria from Magnificat BWV 577 by J.S.Bach

And Mary said:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
And my spirit exults in God my savior;
Because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from that day forward all generations will call me blessed,
For the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
He has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
according to the promise he made to our ancestors
—of his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever.

“Visitation de la Vierge” by Jean Jouvenet, 1716. Wikimedia Commons.

While Biblical scholars tell us this prayer is too formalized to have come from Mary herself*, it nevertheless offers a profound window to how the earliest Christians looked at her and her role in history.  Both as mother and prophet she truly stirred things up and spoke truth to power. 

She lifts up feminine wisdom and strength for sure and calls up our own courage and strength, so important in this time of patriarchal excess and wannabe strongmen. 

It lays bare the heart of a healthy Christ follower and invites others to their mystic-prophetic vocation. 

Another’s death should be a time for grounding oneself all the more fully in one’s prophetic work and vocation.  A recognition of the finality to life gives perspective to our work and limited time on earth.

“Magnificat” sung by the Elektra Women’s Choir, composed by Isabella Leonarda (1620 – 1704), with Alexander Weimann, guest conductor and organist

One asks why such texts as the Magnificat and the medieval Hail Mary are not more prominent in rituals of grief and remembrance in the church of our time. 

Prayers that call up the strength and wisdom of our ancestral mothers and healthy fathers are needed more than ever today.

*The Jerusalem Bible notes how this canticle is reminiscent of Hannah’s in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and incudes allusions to 1 Samuel 1:11; Ps 103:17 and Psalm 111:9; Job 5:11 and 12:19; Psalm 98:3; Psalm 107:9; Is 41:8f.

See Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time.

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice.

And Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

Banner Image: “Embraced by Grace.” Stained glass window commemorating the Annunciation, in Swaffham’s Catholic church, Norfolk, England. Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

How does the Magnificat strengthen you and your respect for women and your efforts at being a healthy Christ-follower who is both mystic and prophet?

Recommended Reading

The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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9 thoughts on “The Magnificat, Mary and Ourselves as Mystic-Prophets”

  1. Avatar

    Sometimes we need to lay the mystic and prophet aside and look at some aspects of an issue in more practical terms. Whether the Holy Family or our own family, respect for the wife, mother, daughter, sister, all starts there. If we do not have a standard to elevate all aspects of worthiness, acceptance, inclusiveness, brain power, heart power, a voice to be heard power, of the women in our own family, it will translate out with negative consequences in the social, political and work community. The root of respect starts in our own homes and daily, continuous enforcement is paramount. Top of mind awareness is a driver of top of mind inclusiveness. Leadership starts in the home. — BB.

    1. Avatar

      I agree Bill, Mary was full of the Life of Jesus. We all are full of the same Life’s importance, power and wealth in the promise of Life’s fullness.

      All this in an equal and equitable way
      Our Wves, Mothers, Daughters and Sisters like Mary must share an equal representation in the institutional Church.

    2. Avatar

      Thank you Bill. I truly celebrate all you have said.
      But when you speak of the Holy Family I am reminded that one person isn’t fully honored for his arguably prophetic role and that is Joseph. He doesn’t speak throughout their years together raising Jesus. There are the words God spoke to him in a dream followed by silence. His depth of soul and courage to take Miriam as his wife in spite of the whiff of scandal can only mean that he was able to imagine himself in her circumstances and did for her what he would have hoped someone would have done for him if he was in her circumstances. Without his graced protection we can imagine that we might never have heard of Jesus’ mother. When femicide is currently a global problem we have to wonder if Joseph’s full story could have made a difference.

  2. Avatar

    Beautiful music from videos honoring the Divine Feminine Spirit of – LOVE~WISDOM~LIFE~JUSTICE~STRENGTH~HEALING~TRANSFORMATION~CREATIVITY~
    BEAUTY~JOY~COMPASSION – within and among All of Us…

    In also honoring the Divine Masculine Spirit as we integrate both spiritual energies within Us on our spiritual journeys, I would like to honor the remembrance today on his birthday the spirit of the contemplative/mystic/prophet Thomas Merton…

  3. Avatar

    Ann Winston Allen has written a well researched book titled “Stories of the Rose: The Making of the Rosary in the Middle Ages.” During the 12th century there was much more freedom in this form of praying the Rosary, in which the Nuns and Monks encouraged each other and the laity to pray to Mary with an emphasis of focusing on Her spiritual essence and the virtues of her nature in four part stanzas; as to embody this living Spirit within themselves. Often this was incorporated with the Psalms, as a sacred pathway of invitation; invoking Mary’s Spirit, to experience and encounter wholeness, through this prayerfilled spiritual relationship with the Divine Mother.

    It wasn’t until centuries later that it became solidified into one specific wording or way of praying the Rosary. I appreciate the message that Mathew has conveyed in the DM’s regarding the Rosary, that creatively inspires us to more freely experience not only praying in this way, but more importantly opening our hearts, minds and souls to a more personal expression, beyond what’s been recited for centuries; liberating us to engage in a more personal and authentic relationship with the living Spirit, the essence and presence of Mary, who’s desire is to respond to our invitations.

  4. Avatar

    My old friend Jackie Fleischman had more than one locution of a female voice who she said was the Blessed Mother. Her greatest locution was when the voice told her to form a rosary group. She formed the group and prayed weekly and biweekly for twenty-five years until she died. I was a regular prayer in the group for the last two years of Jackie’s life. Rosary groups celebrate a divine union.

  5. Avatar

    I was thinking of Hannah’s prayer in Samuel 1, and then I saw the star/footnote. We are all Mary and Mary is all of us, we are never alone in Mary and Mary is never alone in us. I agree this is an important thing to highlight in the public arena, especially during times of grief and despair.

  6. Avatar

    Just a thought or two I
    I have problems with those two prayers. Is Mary only blessed among women or is she blessed among all of humankind? And in the magnificat…. we read that ” God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich empty away”. Is that the kind of God we believe in? And “God has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly”. Does Our loving God have favorites?I
    I have a friend who has given me new words for the Magnificat. They read:
    “Those who persecute will mend their ways . The persecuted will know justice.. The hungry will be satisfied because the rich will learn to share. There is enough for us all. God has created more than we will ever need.”

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