“The intention of the Blessed Virgin was to inspire the hearts of the faithful with a love of the peace God had given her.”
– Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations on Mary
One of the most beloved prayers we find in the New Testament is the Magnificat, in which Our Lady begins with, “My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Every stanza offers praise and thanksgiving to God for His goodness, faithfulness, and for fulfilling His promises beyond imagination.
We can make the Magnificat our prayer, too. In fact, it’s an ideal way to increase gratitude in our prayer life. If you, like me, find yourself rehearsing rote prayers while focusing largely on the negativity in your life, then the Magnificat is a refreshing way to renew the spirit of thankfulness in your heart.
Here are some points we can use for prayerful meditation from the Magnificat:
The Three Hallmarks of the Magnificat
Fr. Bossuet, in his Meditations on Mary, says that there are three main segments to the Blessed Mother’s famous prayer:
- Mary tells us about God’s favors (Bossuet, p. 51);
- Mary shares about how God has humbled those of the world (Ibid);
- She praises God for His faithfulness to His promises (Ibid).
When we pray, we can begin by meditating on our blessings, thanking God for everything. Next, we might consider the importance of humility as a virtue, asking such questions as, “Am I empty of self or egocentric?” “Do I focus more on my problems than trying to help others with theirs?” “Am I selfish?” “Do I spend too much time on my appearance?” “Are spiritual matters (e.g., attending Mass, daily prayers, fasting, etc.) onerous for me?” Finally, we can conclude our prayer with praising God and glorifying Him simply for who He is.
God’s Favor is Upon Us
“The regard of God signifies his favor and benevolence, his help and protection. When God regards the just with his favor, he looks upon them like a good father who is always ready to listen to their requests.”Bossuet, (p. 52)
It may not seem like God favors us, especially if we are in the midst of a specific trial or period of darkness, spiritual aridity or particular lingering cross. I tell my daughters that life is hard and doing the right thing is usually the most difficult thing.
Gratitude for God’s favors begins with noticing little things every day. There are small glimpses of His presence all around us, but we tend to overlook them because of our busyness and the constant distractions of minutiae. Begin today with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of your heart to see Him moving in hidden ways as you go about your day. When you find your heart stopping even momentarily to look up at the sun, pause for a five-minute conversation with a neighbor, or engage in a spontaneous laugh with your toddler, thank Him for His favor upon you.
The Glory of the World Is Nothing Compared to Eternity
“Let us see the world for what it is, something of little account. We see all human grandeur overthrown, the proud struck down to the earth. In this great overturning of human things, nothing seems more exalted than the simple and humble of heart.”Bossuet, p. 55
Humility is the foundation of all other virtues. In the book Humility of Heart, the opening chapter builds upon the premise that there are many saints in Heaven who were not necessarily virgins or who embraced poverty or strong, but there was no saint who was not first and foremost humble. We, therefore, must strive for humility. It begins for us in prayerfully submitting ourselves to all that God permits of us, good or bad.
“God favors the pure of heart and the sincere. The world prefers the crafty and the unscrupulous.”-Bossuet, (p. 55)
Instead of constantly looking to the world for examples of how we should mold our lives, it would behoove us to prefer those humiliations that make us more like Jesus: invisibility, being ignored or overlooked, enduring slander and calumny, preferring the company of strangers and outcasts to renowned people of notoriety, etc.
Love and Fidelity to God Lead to Fruition of His Promises
“Learn to speak the language of your home…Those whose God is the Lord are truly happy.”
The final point we can glean from the beautiful Magnificat prayer is this: to distinguish between happiness and joy. The world constantly bombards us with the message of pursuing whatever makes us happy and to discard everything that causes our displeasure. Our Lady didn’t always feel happy, considering that her heart was pierced from the moment she heard Simeon’s prophecy until her own Assumption into Heaven.
We, too, partake in this mystical suffering in various ways throughout our lives: financial hardship, caring for an ailing parent, watching a child suffer from prolonged illness or disability. Yet we, like Mary, can still experience joy. Joy is deeper than happiness. It is the language of the heart, which we must bring every day into our homes.
While happiness relies on volatile and fleeting emotions, joy resides quietly, deeply within our souls and isn’t always felt, but is chosen even in the bitterest of our sorrows.