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Mary's Song (The Magnificat)

Reference > Literature > Poetry > Christmas Songs (Luke's Gospel)

Six months after Elizabeth and Zacharias received the astonishing news that even though they were past child-bearing years, they would have a son, an angel appeared to Elizabeth's cousin, Mary to inform her that she, too, would have a baby. Mary rightfully could be astonished at this news, since she was unmarried, and had never been with a man. The angel explained that the child was the result of being "overshadowed" by the spirit of God. The angel also mentioned that her cousin Elizabeth was expecting, and six months along, as a way of proving that nothing was impossible with God.

Upon hearing this, Mary quickly made the journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth greeted her with these words: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."

Mary's response to this was, like Zacharias's response when he could finally speak again, a song. Here is Mary's song (often referred to as "The Magnificat"), as recorded in the King James Version of the Bible. Below the song is a series of questions about this reading. Some questions you may be able to answer from the text. Other questions may require some research.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.


Why is Mary astonished by the angel's news?
What evidence or sign does the angel provide for the news he brought?
What does "Magnificat" mean?
Based on the first two lines of her song, how would you describe Mary's attitude?
Based on the third line, how does Mary view herself?
What is a handmaiden?
What is the contrast between the third line and the sixth line?
What do the seventh and eighth lines of the song say about God?
Do you think Mary's son Jesus embodied the qualities she describes in the seventh and eighth lines? Give examples to support your answer.
Mary speaks of "mercy" in the last section of her song. What is mercy?
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The Song of ZachariasThe Song of Zacharias
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