My soul magnifies the Lord

5 minute read

‘And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”’

‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’

These are some of the best words in the Bible. Mary speaks them, as we just heard, to her cousin Elizabeth. She is rejoicing at what she has heard. Incomprehensible, wonderful things. She rejoices, and her soul magnfies the Lord. She praises him, even though she is a pregnant, unmarried teenage girl, and, apart from anything else, in very great danger.

She’s right to rejoice. If there is one thing that Christians ought to do, it is to rejoice. And we rejoice with her: every day for at least the last 1700 years, these words have been said, sung, chanted and proclaimed by Christians who rejoice alongside Mary.

‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’

Mary is the first. This is why she is so important. She is the first to hear the Angel’s words: ‘You will bear a son and you will name him Jesus.’ She was the first to say ‘Yes’ to Christ. She is the first to greet the infant Christ with a kiss of love. She is the first to tend to him, to care for him, to feed him. She is the first to lose him, to search for him and to find him. She is the first to ask his miraculous help. She is the first to trust in him absolutely, and she gives us those words ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

Mary is the first.

And Mary is also the last. She stays with Jesus to the end of his earthly life. She is the last one left, alongside St John, when all the disciples have fled. She is the last one standing at the foot of the cross. She is left to cradle his body in her arms and to kiss his brow, though the tears of joy in Bethlehem have turned to tears of sorrow on Calvary.

Mary was the last.

We don’t hear of Mary in the resurrection stories of Christ, but we can have no doubt that she was among those who rejoiced with unimaginable joy. She was, after all, the one who sang ‘He has lifted up the lowly.’

‘He has lifted up the lowly.’

Today is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. More properly, it is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, though these words are a bit too Catholic-sounding for the sensibilities of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission.

But it merely repeats something we’ve already said: Mary was first. And the Church has believed for many, many centuries, that Mary was first in another way. At the end of her earthly life, she was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven. She, the lowly servant of God, was raised up into glory.

Christ promised eternal life, the Resurrection of our bodies, to those who believe in him. And he made Mary, his mother, the first to receive that promise. Mary was the first.

But ‘Mary was the first,’ means something else. It means also that there are those who follow. We do not venerate Mary in a stand-offish, isn’t-she-lovely-what-a-wonderful-person kind of way. We venerate her because hers is also the path that we must follow.

We must hear the Angel’s words and rejoice at Christ’s birth. We must say ‘Yes‘ to Christ. We must tend to him, care for him and feed him, in the sick, the lost and the hungry of this world. We, no doubt, will lose him, we will search for him and, through his unfailing love, we will find him. We must ask his help and his aid. We must trust him absolutely. We must stay with him to the end of his earthly life and to the end of ours. We must see Christ on the Cross, suffering for the redemption of our sins, and stand with him. We must treasure his precious body, given for us on Calvary and present for us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And we must rejoice at his Resurrection.

In all this, we follow the one who went before us, Mary the Mother of our Lord.

Mary was the first, but she is not the last. The whole point of Christianity is that we might follow that path. That we too might be assumed, body and soul, into the heavenly glory.

And, until that time, we must live with our whole lives pointing to Christ, just as Mary’s did.

‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’

Here’s a question for you to consider. Does your life magnify the Lord? Do you point in your words and deeds towards the God who created you, who redeemed you, who promises you eternal life? Does your soul magnify the Lord?

It isn’t easy. It takes constant repentence. Repentence means ‘turning back’. If we want our lives to magnify the Lord, it means constant turning back from our selfish, sinful desires. Constant turning towards the God of grace.

Day by day, hour by hour.

We cannot achieve this by our own power. We do not have the strength to turn and love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might. Our souls cannot magnify the Lord, because they do not fully know him.

We are imperfect.

We need help.

We need God to be with us.

We need constant prayer.

We need to pray for one another, of course, and for all Christians across the world, that each of us may have all the necessary gifts of grace.

But God has given us another great gift. He has given us his saints in Heaven, with Mary foremost among them. They pray for us.

Day by day, hour by hour, the saints in Heaven are holding us and all our needs up to God. They pray for us, that we might be like them and behold the King of Glory face to face.

‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’

This is the message of today. Rejoice in God. Magnify the Lord in word and action. And repent, turn back to God, that your soul may be perfected and you may join Mary and all the saints in Christ’s Kingdom.

And, as we gaze upon Our Lady, with the Angel, we say, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’

And with the Church in every age, we pray, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.’