A random.random() Joseph Wilbrand Weblog

A random.random() Joseph Wilbrand Weblog

Religious Studies

The Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55

Luke 1:46-55

46And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord,For the Virgin, with lofty thoughts and deep penetration, contemplates the boundless mystery, the further she advances, magnifying God; And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.
47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that he may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul receives the word of God if only he be unspotted and free from sin, and preserves it with unsullied purity.
48 For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. In the following words she teaches us how worthless she felt of herself and that she received by the heavenly grace that was lavished on her every sort of good merit that she had. She says, “For he has considered the humility of his handmaid. For behold from this time on all generations will call me blessed.” She demonstrates that in her own judgment she was indeed Christ’s humble handmaid, but with respect to heavenly grace she pronounces herself all at once lifted up and glorified to such a degree that rightly her preeminent blessedness would be marveled at by the voices of all nations.
49 For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. But this has reference to the beginning of the hymn, where it is said, My soul dot magnify the Lord. For that soul can alone magnify the Lord with due praise, for whom hedeigns to do mighty things. For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be; apart from the earth. For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be apart from the earth.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. She adds, more clearly, “And his mercy is for generations and generations to those who fear him.” She names “generations and generations,” referring either to both of the two peoples, namely, the Jews and the Gentiles, or alternatively to all the countries throughout the world which she foresaw would believe in Christ. For, as Peter said, “God is not a respecter of persons, but in every nation one who fears him and works justice is acceptable to him.”
51 He has showed strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. Or she says, Has shown, for will show strength; not as long ago by the hand of Moses against the Egyptians, nor as by the Angel, (when he slew many thousand of the rebel Assyrians,) nor by any other instrument save His own power, He openly triumphed, overcoming spiritual enemies. Hence it follows, he has scattered that is to say, every heart that was puffed up and not obedient to His coming He has laid bare, and exposed the wickedness of their proud thoughts. 
52 He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. Great used to he the haughtiness of these demons whom He scattered, and of the devil, and of the Greek sages, as I said, and of the Pharisees and Scribes. But He put them down, and exalted those who had humbled themselves under their mighty hand, “having given them authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy:” and made the plots against us of these haughty-minded beings of none effect. The Jews, moreover, once gloried in their empire, but were stripped of it for their unbelief; whereas the Gentiles. who were obscure and of no note, were for their faith’s sake exalted.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. These words regulate our conduct even with respect to sensible things, teaching the uncertainty of all worldly possessions, which are as short lived as the wave which is dashed about to and fro by the violence of the wind. But spiritually all mankind suffered hunger except the Jews; for they possessed the treasures of legal tradition and the teachings of the holy prophets. But because they did not rest humbly on the Incarnate Word they were sent away empty, carrying nothing with them neither faith nor knowledge, and were bereft of the hope of good things, being shut out both of the earthly Jerusalem and the life to come. But those of the Gentiles, who were roughs low by hunger and thirst, because they clung to the Lord, were filled with spiritual goods.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; It might also be applied to Israel after the flesh, seeing that out of that body multitudes believed. But this he did remembering His mercy, for He has fulfilled what he promised to Abraham, saying, For in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise then the mother of God called to mind, saying, As he spoke to out father Abraham; for it was said to Abraham, I will place my covenant, that I shall be your God, and the God of your seed after you.
55 As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his descendants forever. When blessed Mary was making mention of the memory of the fathers, she properly represented them by naming Abraham in particular. Although many of the fathers and holy ones mystically brought forward testimony of the Lord’s incarnation, it was to Abraham that the hidden mysteries of this same Lord’s incarnation and of our redemption were first clearly predicted. Also, to him it was specifically said, “And in you all the tribes of the earth will be blessed.” None of the faithful doubts that this pertains to the Lord and Savior, who in order to give us an everlasting blessing deigned to come to us from the stock of Abraham. However, “the seed of Abraham” does not refer only to those chosen ones who were brought forth physically from Abraham’s lineage, but also to us…. Having been gathered together to Christ from the nations, we are connected by the fellowship of faith to the fathers, from whom we are far separated by the origin of our fleshly bloodline. We too are the seed and children of Abraham since we are reborn by the sacraments of our Redeemer, who assumed his flesh from the race of Abraham. 

Spencer Klavan’s translation and commentary of the Magnificat (originally posted on Young Heretics / Locals)

Here’s Luke 1:46-55 in Greek:

46 Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον,

47 καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,

48 ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί:

49 ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

And Mary said, “my soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit has gloried in God my savior. For he looked down from on high upon on the humility of his serving-girl, and see: from from this moment all generations will bless my name. For the mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting is a song, a poem, a prophecy. It is called the “magnificat,” because that is the Latin translation of the first word in Greek: “Megalunei.” It means “magnifies” or “calls great”–my soul magnifies the LORD, sings Mary. What comes next is a single flawless composition, but I will divide it roughly here into three parts which I will translate over the course of three days. Mary sings about what God has done for her, for the world, and for the people of Israel.

First, she sings about herself: God has looked upon her “tapeinōsis,” a word referring to abject poverty and lowliness. It’s more than just lacking money: those who are “tapeinoi” lack all social standing, authority, and power. This is what God has looked on and seen in Mary: not just her position in the world but a spiritual sense of total submission and need.

Mary says, in effect, that this is why he has chosen her: he saw not only that she lacked money and social position, but that she considered herself that way in spirit, too. The outer poverty of her life was mirrored by an inward receptivity, a sense that she had nothing to offer God and God had everything to offer her. The irony is that sense of need is her offering: she knows she has nothing to give God, and so God is well pleased to receive her.

In this, as the rest of the song shows, Mary is a stand-in for all of humanity: those who are aware of themselves as beggars can give themselves to God and receive his favor. Those whom the world has taught to think of themselves as great must be brought low before they can have any hope of conversion. Mary’s name will be blessed for all generations because she is the one who knew fully that God’s name alone is blessed of itself.

Here’s Luke 1:50-53 in Greek:

50 καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν.

51 Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν:

52 καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,

53 πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

“And his mercy endures from generation to generation for those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he has tossed the mighty down from their thrones and exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”

The link between the first part of the Magnificat, which I translated yesterday, and this middle part, which I translate today, is God. Mary considers how God has treated her in her lowliness, and moves from there to reflect on what this reveals about God’s nature more generally, and how he treats the world.

The answer is: he inverts every power relation and thwarts every kind of self-regard to elevate those who think of themselves as little as possible. I love the phrase “dianoia tēs kardias autōn,” which means literally “in the thinking of their heart.” The translation I’ve given is the traditional one: proud rulers have grand designs “in the imagination of their hearts.”

It’s a perfect description of today’s ruling elites, their grand dreams to erase human nature, establish one world government, and rule over a digital world where all the rules are changed. Think of the metaverse, or Klaus Schwab in Davos, or COVID tyranny: these are all examples of “the proud” who imagine that they can remake the world in their own image by sheer force of will.

It’s encouraging to me to find those fantasies of world domination so perfectly described in just a few words from two thousand years ago, with a promise that it will all come to nothing. We may be surprised at how the kings of this world talk, at their arrogance and self-sure dreams of power. God is not.

Luke 1:54-6 in Greek:

54 ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,

55 καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

56 Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

“‘He has taken the side of his child, Israel, remembering his mercy as he said to their fathers–to Abraham and his seed across every age.’ And Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and went back to her house.”

Often translations here will say “his servant Israel.” And it’s true that the Greek “pais” can mean “servant.” But it can also mean “child,” and that is also how God talks about the people of Israel. “Israel is my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22)–at the moment of ransom from Egypt, God tells his people that he will treat them corporately as a dependent in his household.

I think the connection here between “child” and “servant” underscores what I said earlier about Mary: that if she is a “slave” of the Lord it is in the ancient sense of a member of the household, and one destined to be adopted at that. As God once brought his people out of bondage, now he will bring them out of sin, because they are his and he will ransom them at a high price (compare Isaiah 43).

All of this also makes a connection between the whole nation of Israel and Jesus, both of whom are God’s son: Jesus himself will now do in his own life what Israel as a whole nation did in Egypt. He will go down into bondage, be ransomed by God, and set free. And just as Israel’s exodus from Egypt inaugurated an age of freedom for all those who were born afterward, Jesus’s victory over death will usher in generations and generations of adoption into God’s household.

Religious Studies
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