Sunday, December 5, 2010

Magnificat: The Hymn of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1900 | Abbe Z.C. Jourdain

"His mercy is from generation unto generations to them that fear Him."
---- Luke 1: 50
Each of the Gospels has its own particular characteristic. If one is seeking signs of Our Lord's infinite mercy, he should especially read the Gospel of Saint Luke. 

    In this Gospel we find the detailed narratives of the conversion of Magdalen, Zaccheus, and the Good Thief. We see the Good Shepherd seeking the lost sheep and carrying it on His shoulders back to the sheepfold. We see the woman lighting a lamp and looking for her drachma; we learn that this woman's joy in finding it is only a faint image of the joy of God and His Angels when a sinner converts. We also admire the goodness of the father of the prodigal son upon the return of his child, the compassion and liberality of the Good Samaritan. We see Jesus Himself, moved by the widow of Naim who was crying over the death of her son. We see His goodness when He speaks with the disciples of Emmaus after His Resurrection; He enlightens them, comforts them, then allows them to recognize Him. 

Saint Anselm says that Saint Luke the Evangelist, having previously been a physician, had devoted his efforts to relieving sicknesses of the body. After he became a disciple of the Lord, he devoted them to relieving sicknesses of the soul. And the great remedy for sickness of the soul is God's mercy, which delivers the soul of its sins. Saint Luke kept clearly in mind Mary's words, which proclaim the greatness of Divine mercy. 

    This mercy consists in the benefits God has poured forth at all times and will pour forth until the end upon His faithful servants, especially the benefits of the Incarnation of the Word, the Redemption, the  Eucharist, and all the graces that derive from these sacred mysteries. This mercy is not for a time but for all times, although it is not manifested in every era with equal abundance. Saint Albert the Great says, "It is great, it is continual, it is abundant, it is sweet, it is discreet." Divine mercy is also patient; it does not allow the justice and the wrath of God to act as soon as the sinner makes himself guilty, but waits for him to return to a better disposition and do penance. 

    Most often, it is by force of patient goodness that it brings him back: The Lord is waiting that He may have mercy on you, said the prophet Isaias. [30: 18] And Saint Paul the Apostle, blaming men for not profiting enough from Divine mercy, exclaims, Do you despise the riches of His goodness and patience and long suffering? Do you not know that the goodness of God means to lead you to repentance? [Romans 2: 4] 

    Saint Bernard admires the greatness of Divine mercy. He is astonished that God forgives so easily, remits such grievous and numerous sins, and pours countless benefits upon sinners who have been received back into His favor, without ever recalling the remembrance of their sin. He says: 

"The Lord waited for me, but He did not set His gaze upon me, He turned His eyes away from my sins as though He did not want to see how guilty I was making myself . . . Some are offended and then forgive an insult, in the sense that they will not take revenge, but they do not fail to complain about it and often blame the one who has offended them. Others say nothing, but their heart still remains deeply embittered. This is not true forgiveness; that kind of indulgence is still lacking something. Oh, such is not the mercy of God; the pardon He grants is broader and freer.
 "Where sin has abounded, He takes pleasure in making grace abound even more. A testimony to that is Saint Paul, the Doctor of the Nations who labored more than all the other Apostles, with the grace of God . . . Another one is Peter, who after his triple denial was entrusted with the care of governing the Church as its supreme shepherd. And finally, a testimony can found in Mary Magdalen, the well-known sinner. She was considered worthy of such great love from the first moment of her conversion! She was admitted into such close friendship! If anyone accused her, did she ever have to defend herself? If the Pharisees murmured, if Martha complained, if the Apostles were scandalized, Mary remained silent; Jesus Christ excused her and praised her silence. Do you want another proof of the extraordinary favor of which she is the object? When Jesus Christ rose again from the dead, Magdalen was the first person to see Him and touch Him." [Saint Bernard, Sermon de Septem panibus

Does Our Lord not teach us that God's mercy and His perfection are one and the same thing? Listen to what He tells us in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect . . . He who makes His sun rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. [ St. Matthew 5: 48,45] Is it not in this goodness, which is extended to everyone, that Jesus Christ says the Father's perfection consists? Listen to Saint Luke, who relates the same teaching of the Lord in other terms: Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. [St. Luke 6: 36]
  But if God is merciful to such a degree in and of Himself, how much the more easily will He allow Himself to be touched with compassion when the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, pleads our cause and prays to Him on our behalf? Her power over the Heart of Her Son is unlimited. 

     But let us not be mistaken. The Blessed Virgin specified that the mercy of God is from generation unto generation to those who fear Him. No one is excluded from Divine mercy, but it does not produce the effects of salvation except in those who fear God. Not with a servile fear, the way an animal fears the whip that threatens it, although even that sort of fear is a good thing, since it makes us avoid many sins. Nevertheless, true fear of the Lord should be a filial fear united to love, a fear founded on charity and inclined to develop that love. What can those who close their heart to charity and are obstinate in their attachment to sin expect from the mercy of God and of Mary? He who is without fear cannot be justified, says Scripture. [Ecclesiastes 1: 28]
    If we do not fear God, if we refuse to keep His Commandments, how will we be able to lift up our eyes to the Mother of mercy? What can Mary do for a soul in open revolt against Jesus Christ, Her Son and our Judge, a soul that refuses to bow beneath His authority and defies Him? She has fore- warned us Herself that mercy is reserved for those who fear God. Do we think Mary will approve of our iniquities? She is very willing to implore our forgiveness and obtain our return to God's favor, but She will do so only if we manifest a sincere will to revert to the good, and regret having separated from God and having offended Him. Mary has an infinite horror for sin; She can help only pure souls draw near to Him, or those who implore Her help to become pure. Let us not approach Mary if we are burdened with sin, Her mortal enemy. Or if that enemy is wound around us like a deadly serpent, let us call Mary to our help, but let it be in order to be delivered from it. Then we will have a right to Her assistance; through Her we will obtain precious graces for this life and final perseverance in view of eternity. 

 Ref.: Abbe Z.C. Jourdain, Somme des Grandeurs de Marie, Sermons sur Ie Magnificat (Hippolyte Walzer: Paris, 1900), Vol. VII.

The Magnificat 

My soul doth magnify the Lord:
And my spirit hath rejoiced
in God my Savior.
Because He hath regarded the lowliness
of His Handmaid:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His Name.
And His mercy is from generation
unto generations,
to them that fear Him.
He hath showed might with His arm:
He hath scattered the proud
in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the lowly.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich He hath
sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant,
being mindful of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever. 

-----Luke 1: 46-55

1 comment:

Tara said...

That is my very FAVORITE picture of our blessed mother!