Skip to comments.The Lord Places Himself on the Side of the Least
Posted on 02/15/2006 7:12:13 PM PST by ELS
Commentary on the Magnificat
"The Lord Places Himself on the Side of the Least"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, which he dedicated to comment on the Magnificat, the canticle in Luke 1:46-55.
With this address, he concluded the cycle of catecheses on the Psalms and biblical canticles begun by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
1. We have come to the end of the long itinerary begun exactly five years ago by my beloved predecessor, the unforgettable Pope John Paul II. In his catecheses, the great Pope wished to go through the whole sequence of Psalms and canticles that make up the fabric of the fundamental prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours and of Vespers. On arriving at the end of this pilgrimage through the texts, as a journey through a garden full of flowers of praise, invocation, prayer and contemplation, we now make room for that canticle that seals the whole celebration of Vespers, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).
It is a canticle that reveals the spirituality of the biblical "anawim," namely, of those faithful who acknowledged themselves "poor" not only because of their detachment from all idolatry of wealth and power, but also because of their profound humility of heart, free from the temptation to pride, open to saving divine grace. The whole Magnificat, which we just heard interpreted by the Choir of the Sistine Chapel, is characterized by this "humility," in Greek "tapeinosis," which indicates a situation of concrete humility and poverty.
2. The first movement of the Marian canticle (cf. Luke 1:46-50) is like a soloist who raises her voice to heaven to the Lord. To be pointed out, in fact, is the use of the first person which resounds constantly: "my soul ..., my spirit ..., my Savior ..., will call me blessed ..., has done great things in me...." The soul of the prayer is, therefore, the celebration of divine grace that has come into Mary's heart and life, making her the Mother of the Lord. We hear precisely the Virgin's voice speaking in this way of her Savior, who has done great things in her soul and body.
The profound structure of her canticle of prayer is praise, thanksgiving, grateful joy. But this personal testimony is not solitary and private, merely individualistic, as the Virgin Mary is conscious that she has a mission to fulfill for humanity and that her life is framed in the history of salvation. Thus she can say: "His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him" (verse 50). With this praise to the Lord, the Virgin gives voice to all creatures redeemed after her "fiat," who in the figure of Jesus, born of the Virgin, find the mercy of God.
3. At this point develops the second poetic and spiritual movement of the Magnificat (cf. verses 51-55). It has the tone of a choir, as if to Mary's voice were joined that of the community of the faithful, which celebrates God's amazing decisions. In the Greek original of the Gospel of Luke we find seven verbs in aorist, which indicate many other actions that the Lord has carried out permanently in history: "he has shown strength with his arm ..., he has scattered the proud ..., he has put down the mighty from their thrones ..., exalted those of low degree ..., he has filled the hungry with good things ..., the rich he has sent empty away ..., has helped his servant Israel."
Evident in these seven divine works is the "style" in which the Lord of history inspires his conduct: He places himself on the side of the least. Often, his plan is hidden under the opaque terrain of human vicissitudes, in which the "proud," the "mighty" and the "rich" triumph. However, in the end, his secret strength is destined to manifest who God's real favorites are: the "faithful" to his Word, "the humble," "the hungry," "his servant Israel," namely, the community of the People of God that, as Mary, is constituted by those who are "poor," pure and simple of heart. It is that "little flock" which Jesus invites not to be afraid, as the Father has willed to give it his kingdom (cf. Luke 12:32). Thus, this canticle invites us to associate ourselves to this little flock, to really be members of the People of God in purity and simplicity of heart, in love of God.
4. Let us accept, then, the invitation that St. Ambrose makes to us in his commentary on the Magnificat. The great doctor of the Church exhorts: "In the heart of each one may Mary praise the Lord, in each may the spirit of Mary rejoice in the Lord; if, according to the flesh, Christ has only one mother, according to faith all souls engender Christ; each one, in fact, receives in himself the Word of God ... Mary's soul magnifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God as, consecrated with her soul and spirit to the Father and to the Son, she adores with devout affection only one God, from whom everything proceeds, and only one Lord, in virtue of whom all things exist" ("Esposizione del Vangelo Secondo Luca," 2,26-27: Saemo, XI, Milan-Rome, 1978, p. 169).
In this wonderful commentary on the Magnificat of St. Ambrose I am always moved by this amazing word: "If, according to the flesh, Christ has only one mother, according to faith all souls engender Christ; each one, in fact, receives in himself the Word of God." Thus the holy doctor, interpreting the words of the Virgin herself, invites us to offer the Lord a dwelling in our souls and in our lives. Not only must we bear him in our hearts, but we must take him to the world, so that we too might engender Christ for our times. Let us pray to the Lord to help us to praise him with Mary's spirit and soul and to take Christ again to our world.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father read the following summary in English:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we bring to a conclusion the cycle of reflections, begun by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II, on the Psalms and canticles found in the Liturgy of the Hours.
We do so with a meditation on the Magnificat, which extols the biblical poor, the "anawim," who live in deep humility of heart and openness to God's saving grace. They are free from pride and detached from aspirations to human greatness.
The first part of the canticle portrays Mary rejoicing in the grace which has come into her heart and her life. She does this in a personal way, but is aware also of her mission to all humanity.
The second part places Mary's words of praise in harmony with the whole history of the faithful. They celebrate the surprising choices of God who "scatters the proud-hearted" ... "casts the mighty from their thrones" ... "fills the starving with good things."
Let us conclude by associating ourselves with the invitation of the great St. Ambrose: "May each one of us glorify the Lord with the soul of Mary and rejoice in God with the spirit of Mary."
[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
I am happy to offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's audience. I extend particular greetings to the groups from England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and the United States of America. May your time in Rome strengthen your faith and renew you love for the Lord and his Blessed Mother. May God bless you all!
|CANTICUM BEATÆ MARIÆ VIRGINIS
|CANTICLE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
|MAGNIFICAT: ánima mea Dóminum,||MY SOUL doth magnify the Lord,|
|Et exsultávit spíritus meus: in Deo, salutári meo.||and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.|
|Quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllæ suæ: ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes.||For He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.|
|Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est: et sanctum nomen eius.||For He that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is His Name.|
|Et misericórdia eius, a progénie in progénies: timéntibus eum.||And His mercy is on them that fear Him throughout all generations.|
|Fecit poténtiam in bráchio suo: dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui.||He hath showed strength with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts.|
|Depósuit poténtes de sede: et exaltávit húmiles.||He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.|
|Esuriéntes implévit bonis: et dívites dimísit inánes.||He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich He hath sent empty away.|
|Suscépit Israël púerum suum: recordátus misericórdiæ suæ.||He remembering His mercy hath holpen His servant Israel:|
|Sicut locútus est ad patres nostros: Abraham, et sémini eius in sæcula.||as He promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.|
|Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.||Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.|
|Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.||As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.|
VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2006 (VIS) - At the beginning of the general audience Benedict XVI recalled that today's catechesis was the last "of the long cycle begun years ago by my beloved predecessor, the unforgettable John Paul II," who wished to cover "the entire sequence of Psalms and Canticles that constitute the basic fabric of the Liturgy of the Hours and of Vespers.
"Having reached the end of this textual pilgrimage - like a journey through a flower garden of praise, invocation, prayer and contemplation - we now come to the canticle that closes the celebration of Vespers: the Magnificat."
The Pope went on: "It is a canticle that reveals ... the spirituality ... of those faithful who recognized themselves as 'poor,' not only in detaching themselves from all forms of idolatry of wealth and power, but also in profound humility of heart, free from the temptation to pride and open to the irruption of divine saving grace."
If the first part of the Magnificat, the Holy Father explained, is "the celebration of divine grace which irrupted into the heart and the life of Mary, making her Mother of the Lord," Mary's personal witness was nonetheless "not solitary, ... because the Virgin Mother was aware she had a mission to achieve for humanity, and her own story is part of the history of salvation."
In the second part, "the voice of Mary is joined by the entire community of faithful" who celebrate God's actions in history. "The 'style' that inspires the Lord of history is clear: He takes the side of the least and the lowliest." On this subject, the Pope quoted the words of St. Ambrose: "May each one of us glorify the Lord with the soul of Mary. ... If, according to the flesh, the mother of Christ is one, then according to the faith, all souls generate Christ."
Prior to the general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope went to the Vatican Basilica to greet a group of Italian students and participants in a pilgrimage promoted by the French religious family, "Freres de Saint-Jean."
Addressing the students, Benedict XVI spoke of his recent Encyclical "Deus caritas est," recalling that "the love of God is the source and motive for our true joy. I invite each of you to understand and accept ever more this Love that changes life and renders you credible witnesses of the Gospel."
The Holy Father then turned to the participants in the pilgrimage of the "Freres de Saint-Jean" who are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the foundation of their organization. "May your pilgrimage be a time of renewal, one in which to analyze the experiences you have had, learn the appropriate lessons, and discern with ever greater profundity the vocations that arise and the missions to which you are called, in trusting collaboration with the pastors of local churches."
AG/MAGNIFICAT/FRERES SAINT-JEAN VIS 060215 (500)
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What a treasure. God bless the Pope. If this is the last of the cycle what will the next cycle of catecheses be?
Your guess is as good as mine. I suppose we'll find out next week. I have no doubt that whatever Benedict XVI will choose, he will continue to compose articulate and eloquent catecheses.
He sure gets to try on a lot of hats. Sandro Magister talked Monday night in DC about how beloved the Holy Father is and how attentively people listen to him. He's really packing in the crowds for his General Audiences. It's amazing how enthusiastic they are, too. I love the joy displayed on people's faces when he passes by them.
Oh, just a reminder....it's Day Two of the Novena for the Chair of Peter which ends on the 22nd.
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