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Luke 1:39-49

Mary Visits Elizabeth

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Mary’s Song of Praise

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, 
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name. 

In this text – unparalleled in the other Gospel accounts – Mary sets out to visit her relative Elizabeth in the hill country, and Elizabeth filled with the Spirit recognizes that Mary will bear the Savior! In response, Mary prayers a prayer that has become known as the Magnificat, a prayer that continues to be used in many church traditions today.  

The text occurs as part of the ‘infancy narrative’ within Luke, a section of the Gospel that tells of events that took place around the birth of Jesus. Luke has already told us the story of Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah, and the promise that Elizabeth would conceive, as well as the story of Gabriel’s appearance to the virgin Mary, promising to her that the Savior will be born. Gabriel had also told Mary that her relative Elizabeth had conceived a son, even though past the age of child-bearing, and so Mary travels to meet he. As the two mothers-to-be meet, John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb at the greeting of Mary. The Spirit prompts Elizabeth to cry out a blessing on Mary, highlighting the trust Mary showed in the promise given to her by the Lord.

It is in response to this blessing that Mary praises the Lord in the Magnificat, the opening verses of which occur in this week’s reading. In this first section of the prayer, Mary rejoices in what God has done for her, and expresses gratitude and joy in the ‘Mighty One’. The prayer draws from a range of Old Testament texts (Psalm 34:369:30136:23), including the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Mary sees herself as an example of a lowly servant whom God blessed with the commission to bear the Savior. For this reason, all generations will call her blessed. God’s work among the humble is a key theme in the New Testament, and Mary remains a wonderful example of it.

Blessings as we pray that we too might be humble in our lives.  Be safe!  Be well!  The Spirit has come!

 To Ponder:

  •  Have you ever felt the Spirit prompting you to speak out, like Elizabeth did in this passage?  
  • In what ways does God continue to “favor the lowly” in today’s world?

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