The first chapter of Luke contains two psalms of praise, one offered by Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and the other by Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79). Mary’s psalm is commonly known as the Magnificat, which is the first word in the Latin version of the text.
Mary opens her psalm by proclaiming that her soul “magnifies” the Lord. She expresses gratitude and wonder that He chose someone of “low estate” like her for such an important mission, and she testifies that God prioritizes the humble over the rich and the powerful. She also recognizes her role in helping to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham. Here is the full text of the psalm:
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.Luke 1:46-55
What does it mean to magnify the Lord? It means to recognize His goodness to us, to rejoice in it, and to declare it.
Mary’s psalm reminds me of Ammon’s heartfelt expression of joy at the end of a fourteen-year mission among the Lamanites. “How great reason have we to rejoice,” he said to his brothers, “for could we have supposed…that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?” (Alma 26:1). “Let us glory,” he said, “for our joy is full.” Then, he added, “Who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel” (Alma 26:16).
It’s so easy to focus on the negative in life, and many days, life may just be hard. Like Mary, we may feel “of low estate.” Like Ammon, our hearts may sometimes be “depressed,” and we may have to be “patient in our sufferings” (Alma 26:27-28). But we will also have moments like Mary at Elizabeth’s door and Ammon leading thousands of friends to safety, when we recognize God’s goodness toward us and are overwhelmed with gratitude.
Gaye Strathearn, an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, asked, “What will our Magnificat be? How will we express our rejoicing in our God? How will we express the magnificence of His mercy in our lives? How will we find ways to celebrate our part in the fulfilling of the Abrahamic covenant in our day?” (“Mary, the Mother of Jesus,” Ensign, January 2019).
Today, I will magnify the Lord. I will recognize and declare His goodness toward me and toward my loved ones. I will express gratitude for His blessings and will help other people see His hand in their lives as well.
Thank you for sharing these thoughts and including the link, in your penultimate paragraph, to Gaye Strathearn’s article about Mary. I’m often guilty of overlooking Mary’s importance and I love Strathearn’s observation… “Through her interactions with Gabriel and Elisabeth, we see a young woman trying to grasp and understand her unique call from God. The magnitude of that call must have weighed heavily upon someone so young, and yet she readily submitted her will to that of the Father. Her story reminds us that God is aware of all of His children and that He calls ordinary men and women to participate in extraordinary ways to help build His kingdom. She became Jesus’s first disciple, and thus she is a model for all who choose to follow Him.”
I really liked that article. Thank you for sharing another excerpt. That really is the heart of Mary’s message in her psalm: God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things. We can all take heart from her example when we are called to do difficult things.
I am particularly grateful for the post you share. I am amazed at the depth and variety of information you share. Thank you for blessing my life. Mom >
Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the positive feedback! Have a great day!