39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."  Version: New International Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • Angels have appeared, parents are expecting; the stage is set.
  • Mary hurries to Judea to meet her relative (v.39), eager to meet someone whose pregnancy too was unexpected, and whose child will be involved in God's larger plan for the world.
  • A series of four persons are moved by God's Spirit, realizing the stunning reality of what God is doing in their generation.
    • First, the fetus (John) recognizes Jesus (!) and leaps in the womb (v.41). (Or maybe it is Elizabeth who reacts physiologically and this causes the baby to shift suddenly? It seems that more than this is going on.)
    • Then Elizabeth herself reacts with great excitement (vv.42-45).
      • She feels honored and humbled that Mary visited her (v.43).
      • She knows that Mary's baby is the Messiah (v.43), her "Lord," and is the first person to recognize this fact.
      • Then she echoes the heart of Mary (v.45), who had affirmed (v.38) her faith: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." She is (implicitly) contrasting Mary's faithful attitude with her husband Zechariah's faithless response.
    • Now it's Mary's turn to put her joy and faith into words (vv.46-55).
      • She is amazed at God, awed by God, can only worship God!
      • The incredible news -- with all the changes this will bring -- does not go to her head. Mary remains humble.
      • She realizes that all generations to come will recognize her blessedness.
      • She also sees (v.51ff) that the Messiah to be born to her will bring about a reversal in this world: the exalted will be humbled; the humbled exalted.
      • Verse 54 points to the Abrahamic promises (starting in Genesis 12).

Advanced:

  • Verses 46-55 are called the Magnificat, from the first word of this section in the Latin translation. Literally it means "Magnifies-it [my soul]..." The entire passage is inspired by Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1f, and has multiple theological connections with Isaiah and Psalms, as well as 2 Samuel and Micah.
  • Mary's awareness that all generations will call her blessed (v.48) is not because she will become the "Queen of Heaven," or any other tendentious medieval notion. It is because it was her honor to bear the Christ-child, the incarnate Son of God.

Thought questions:

  • The prenatal John was able to recognize the presence of Christ. How easily do I discern the presence of Christ? Without becoming mystical, otherworldly, or weird, am I tuned in to spiritual reality?
  • Am I verbal, expressive? To put it another way, how different are my facial expression and tone of voice when I am very happy compared to when I am very sad? Do I easily reveal my heart?
  • Can I sincerely pray, "The Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name"?