Mary concludes her visit to Elizabeth today praising God, who is “mighty and has done great things to me.” Her Magnificat is part of St. Luke’s beautifully crafted narrative of the infancy of Jesus Christ in the first two chapters of his gospel, which we read preparing for the Christmas feast.
After John the Baptist’s birth, his father Zechariah also praises God. “Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel. He has come to his people and set them free.”–his Benedictus. (Luke, 1:67-79)
In the church’s evening prayers each day we pray Mary’s “Magnificat” thanking God for the blessings of the day. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.God has come to the help of his servant Israel, remembering his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” Like Mary, we rejoice in God’s promises and wait for their fulfillment.
In the church’s morning prayers each day we pray Zechariah’s Benedictus, which ends the silence and darkness of night and welcomes a blessed day. “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.”
It’s interesting the way the gospel mysteries become our mysteries. No matter what the day, we end it singing God’s praises with Mary. No matter what the day, the Dawn which is Jesus Christ brings God’s blessings to our world and guidance for our steps. Like Zechariah, who came slowly to belief, we pray his song each morning.
Commentators on Luke’s gospel say that Luke probably uses Jewish Christian prayers, applying them to Zechariah and Mary. The New American Bible says: “ Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.”
The Magnificat and the Benedictus, attributed appropriately to Mary and Zechariah, are our prayers too. Daily prayers.
Let me not doubt your promises, your tender mercies, but let me rejoice in them as Mary and Zechariah did, and look for their fulfillment, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.