As far back into infancy as I can recall, the Magnificat was among the very earliest things I remember learning in life. My mother taught me this version from the 1662 Church of England Book of Common Prayer, published as revised during the reign of Charles Edward Stuart, II. During Advent, we remember that Mary was the real force who linked the Old and New Testaments as one single story, remembering her own ancestors and God’s promise to Abraham at the same time as carrying within her the seed of the whole new Covenant:
My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name. And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations. 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 seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away. He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.
My mother also taught me the Magnificat in French: Le Chanson de Marie (Le Magnificat désigne le cantique de la Vierge Marie dont il est question dans l’Évangile selon Luc au chapitre 1, versets 46 à 56 (visite de Marie à Elisabeth ou visitation). Il est aussi appelé Cantique de Marie).
Le Seigneur fit pour moi des merveilles, saint est son nom!
Mon âme exalte le Seigneur, exulte mon esprit en Dieu, mon Sauveur! Il s’est penché sur son humble servante ; désormais, tous les âges me diront bienheureuse. Le Puissant fit pour moi des merveilles ; Saint est son nom ! Son amour s’étend d’âge en âge sur ceux qui le craignent. Déployant la force de son bras, il disperse les superbes. Il renverse les puissants de leurs trônes, il élève les humbles. Il comble de bien les affamés, renvoie les riches les mains vides. Il relève Israël, son serviteur, il se souvient de son amour, de la promesse faite à nos pères, en faveur d’Abraham et de sa race, à jamais. Gloire au Père, au Fils, au Saint-Esprit maintenant et à jamais dans les siècles des siècles.
- It wasn’t until College that I got around to learning this texts in Koiné Greek
- Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον
- καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,
- ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αυτοῦ.
- ἰδού γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί,
- ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός,
- καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,
- καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς
- τοῖς φοβουμένοις αυτόν.
- Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ,
- διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν·
- καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων
- καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,
- πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν
- καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς.
- ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ,
- μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,
- καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν
- τῷ Αβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
and Latin (although this is the slightly edited most “up to date” Vatican RC Version approved by John Paul II):
Magnificat anima mea Dominum, et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo, quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae. Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes, quia fecit mihi magna,qui potens est, et sanctum nomen eius, et misericordia eius in progenies et progeniestimentibus eum. Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;deposuit potentes de sedeet exaltavit humiles;esurientes implevit boniset divites dimisit inanes. Suscepit Israel puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae,sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini eius in saecula.
And finally, for Daria, in Polish:
Today at All Saints, the Reverend Barry Taylor delivered an amazing sermon on the parallels between the coming of Christmas and the coming of the Apocalypse, and of God’s time and of being awake or asleep while waiting. Simultaneously, he was eloquent, entertaining, and awe-inspiring, contrasting the laconic text of Mark with the more flowery prose of the other Gospels. But the connexion with Advent and the preparation for the first earthly appearance of Jesus was minimal, and I think that’s too bad (but I don’t get to set the Scripture readings in Church….)
Up to a very real point I think that the stories of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also of Mary Magdalene, the first to see the empty tomb, did more to make Christianity acceptable and familiar to the pagan gentiles of the world than any other two single aspects of the Gospels. The proof of this is in the Universality of “Mary” as the most common woman’s name anywhere and everywhere the world has accepted Christ. It is almost impossible to reconcile Saint Paul’s near misogyny with Jesus’ tolerance and obvious love of the women in his life, and of women generally. While 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 is rightly known as the “Hymn to Love,” this divine love or agape is not the kind of richly human love and relationships of which Jesus’ mother sings in the Magnificat, nor of which we celebrate during the successive seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. What would Paul have said to Saint Joseph (whom I once played in a public school Nativity Play in Texas—the very concept of a “public school nativity play” is kind of astounding in 2011—but J.S. Armstrong elementary in Highland Park, Texas, well that was a different place and a different time altogether from anyplace in the United States today that I know of…)…what would Saint Paul (formerly Saul) have said to Saint Joseph during Advent about Joseph’s pregnant wife, and the fact that the two of them had not been married at the obvious time of Jesus’ conception? Paul completely ignores all of that in his Epistles. I cannot find the name of “Mary”, nor the words “Annunciation,” “Mother of Jesus”, “Angel Gabriel,” or anything like that even in Fr. Joseph A. Fitzmyer’s index or concordance to his exhaustive commentary on First Corinthians in the Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008). Fitzmyer comments that Paul only refers briefly that he knew the Lord’s Brothers (1 Corinthians 9:5) and elsewhere in Galatians 1:19 indicates that he (Paul) knew James, the Brother of Jesus and First Bishop of Jerusalem as one of the Apostles. This is pretty much all that Paul says of Jesus’ family. (See especially Fitzmyer 2008: 353-359). “Brotherhood” and family in 1 Corinthians refers to the community of believers—an abstract family bound by spiritual values rather than blood, whereas the Gospels are all so intimately physical and related to Jesus’ capacity to be human, eat and drink with everyone, touch and heal the sick, embrace sinners, and ultimately to die. The practical and earth Pagan world of Europe and Egypt would never have accepted Paul’s Christianity alone. The hierarchical political world of the Roman Empire would never have accepted Jesus’ Gospels of Love and Tolerance alone. In Mary the people and the Church found their Earthly and Heavenly Queen, and this is (to me anyhow) the essential lesson on which we must focus during the Season of Advent.