Autograph of the Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243. First page of the first movement “Coro",
Composed by Johannn Sebastian Bach (1685-1750),
Ink on paper
© Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz - Musikabteilung / Wikimedia
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
Reflection on the musical manuscript
Today’s artwork is a manuscript by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is his first major liturgical composition based on a Latin text: a musical setting of the biblical canticle the Magnificat (Bach ref. 243), as recorded in our Gospel reading today. It is scored for five vocal parts (two sopranos, alto, tenor and bass), and a Baroque orchestra including trumpets and timpani. The Magnificat is the longest discourse recorded of Mary in Divine Revelation, and lends itself beautifully to being set to music. The heart of Mary is shown in this beautiful prayer, and music can further help us enter into her profound adoration of God and to appreciate the mission he gave her.
Today's reading is a beautiful Gospel passage as we fully participate in the conversation between Mary and Elizabeth. The latter praises Mary not for being pregnant, but for having faith in the angel's words and accepting God's calling. Mary is the prime example of saying 'yes' to God. She fully trusted in God and let Him do His work in her. Further on in our passage we listen in to Mary's beautiful Magnificat prayer, where we see this acceptance of her calling in action. She accepts it with joy, enthusiasm and hope. During evening prayer we say the Magnificat every day. Doing so, we share in Mary's confidence and generosity of spirit. Each time we say or sing those words, we too can answer God's call with an exultant 'Yes!'
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Readings related to Luke 1:39-56
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