Foretelling Christ’s Birth, Visitation, And Magnificat- Luke 1:26-56

3 Jan

In the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce that she had conceived a son by the Holy Spirit. (cf. Luke 1:35) Mary didn’t fully understand Gabriel’s announcement, but she accepted God’s great gift anyway.

Prior to Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, he also came to the priest Zechariah to foretell the birth of John the Baptist. Here, Gabriel’s words were met with skepticism from Zechariah. He couldn’t comprehend how his aged wife Elizabeth would be able to conceive a child, so God made him speechless until the birth of John the Baptist. (cf. Luke 1:13-20)

Talk of angelic appearances is popular today. For example, television shows like “Touched by an Angel” have enjoyed success. We identify angels as messengers, and often as helpers, or “guardians”. Appearances by angels helped people to understand key steps in God’s mission to save us. I can think of at least four appearances by angels that are documented in Luke’s Gospel, three of which occur at or before the Nativity. Angels appeared to Zechariah to announce John the Baptist’s conception, to Mary at Jesus’ conception, and then at the birth of Jesus. Three is an important number to Christianity. For example, we believe in the Holy Trinity: three persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- in one God. Many of the Mass parts are strucuctured in threes. The fourth angelic appearance I’m mindful of is extra special. It’s like the aforementioned three appearances plus one bonus: the two angels’ appearance to the women at the empty tomb. (cf. Luke 24:4-7) At that point, we learn that Jesus is resurrected. Humankind is redeemed. Salvation becomes a real possibility at that point, and we no may no longer dwell in sin by which we seclude ourselves from God. Christ’s earthly mission is completed by His resurrection.

Elizabeth also “remained in seclusion” for five months after conceiving John (Luke 1:24). After this time, God revealed more aspects of His redemptive plan to humanity. First, God sent the messenger angel Gabriel again, this time to Mary. Gabriel said to Mary, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28 ) Mary found it difficult to understand the significance of Gabriel’s words. At Mass, we are greeted by the priest’s words, “The Lord be with you”, to which we respond, “And also with you”. Later, we hear, “Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit…” We respond with a great “Amen”. Then we respond “Amen” again when receiving Christ’s Body and Blood at Communion. The word “Amen” roughly means “I believe”. It’s important that we mean it and be reverent and joyful when we say it, because this word is so powerful.

We say “Amen” though we all have questions, even doubts, about our faith. Mary was told this of her son-to-be:

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

Mary’s first reaction was: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) She was quickly reassured by Gabriel that she would be under the power of the Holy Spirit. Gabriel said, “the child to be born will be holy, and he will be called Son of God.” (Luke 1:36) But Gabriel didn’t stop there. He informed Mary that Elizabeth, too, was expecting a child. (cf. Luke 1:37) Mary was thus filled with joy that was endless as the kingdom of the Lord she carried in her womb. There are few things that are without end. I recall a silly children’s “Song that Doesn’t End”. That and some of my blog posts come close to being endless… But God is the Alpha and the Omega, Beginning and End. In God is the promise of everlasting life in happiness and joy. Mary responded to God’s eternal plan with great humility and joy:

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 )

Filled with this joy, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, whom she stayed with for three months. (Luke 1:56) Mary’s joy couldn’t be contained, and it rubbed off on Elizabeth, such that as soon as she heard the sound of Mary’s greeting, “the child in (Elizabeth’s) womb leapt for joy.” (Luke 1:44). Mary was truly blessed among women, and blessed was the fruit of her womb (cf. Luke 1:42), as Elizabeth said: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)

Following Elizabeth’s acknowledgement of God’s gift to Mary (and indeed the world), Mary praised the Lord. By Mary’s Magnificat, we are shown how to humbly praise God. Mary said the words of the Magnificat, and lived by them, following Jesus’ ways:

My soul magnifies the Lord.
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
For he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him,
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
In remembrance of his mercy,
According to the promise he made to our ancestors,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.

-Luke 1:46-55

Mary’s example is so ideal that she is to be revered as the foremost Saint. Her feast day is the first feast day of each year, on January 1.

Our Magnificat is to simply say “I believe”, and then to live by it. Christ is our Great Amen. Blessed be those who walk in His paths.

Amen.

WRS

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One Response to “Foretelling Christ’s Birth, Visitation, And Magnificat- Luke 1:26-56”

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  1. Resources for Luke 1:13 - 20 - February 15, 2012

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