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Essay: “My soul magnifies the Lord”

For 2000 years, Mary the mother of Jesus has been a major figure in Christian theology, liturgy and art and a major inspiration to believers working to live their faith in daily life. Yet, in the Gospels, Mary doesn’t have many lines. In fact, she only speaks on four occasions: when Gabriel appears to her, when she visits her cousin Elizabeth, when the 12-year-old Jesus stays behind in the Temple and when she’s at the wedding feast of Cana with her son.

The Feast of the Visitation, celebrated at the end of May, commemorates the event when, for me, Mary shines the brightest, singing the Magnificat, perhaps the greatest song in the Bible. It starts:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

Many modern translations begin, “My soul proclaims…” or “My soul praises…” But I like the earlier word “magnifies” because it’s kind of odd and mysterious. What Mary is saying is that she is like a magnifying glass. By looking at her — by looking through her — other people see God better.

Isn’t this what we’re called to do as Christians? To be a magnifying glass — to help others see, through our actions, the God who is at the center of all life and meaning. This, for Mary, is a joyful role. She sings:

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

This goes to the heart of life. Magnifying God brings with it a kind of rapture at the richness of existence — our existence as individuals, as people in community with others and in community with God and all of Creation.


Patrick T. Reardon



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