Magnify the Lord!
A Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 1:46-56
Today’s readings may be found at https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122223.cfm
Internet Image from Mysteries revealed about Mary
Isn’t it odd, other-worldly, how so many of the saints describe themselves in terms of smallness? You won’t find any saint telling you how great they are. Instead, they consistently point to Christ as the center from which all things move in their lives. For example, St Teresa of Calcutta described herself as a pencil in God’s hand. St Therese writes of her, “little way.” St Padre Pio described himself as “just a regular guy,” others described him as “a piece of unsalted macaroni.” (Kosloski, 2023) I am sure that Padre Pio chuckled at the description. Padre Pio, like so many Saints who received the stigmata, the marks of Christ’s passion on their body, went to great lengths to cover them, not announce them. It is not about the gift, but the giver.
For Mother Teresa, St Therese of Lisieux, Padre Pio, and every other Saint, “Holy Ones,” their life’s passion was never about themselves but about Christ. They gave their life to make God known in the world, to make His presence and love felt through their lives. Like a magnifying glass, their lives made God larger, His presence tangible in a world and culture that constantly seeks to dismiss God as insignificant and a figment of our imagination. Saints joyfully magnify, make great, the Lord. As St John the Baptist will say of Jesus,
“So this joy of mine has been made complete. [Christ] must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:29b–30 NABRE)
Bishop Robert Barron writes of this phenomenon as an ecstatic leap into true freedom, uninhibited joy. He describes the increase as being from the small soul, the “pusilla anima,” into the infinite ocean of the great soul, the “magna anima.” Life is about someone much greater. This “magna”, greatness, is a life lived with courage and a certain sense of exhilarating, wild abandon. He writes,
When we live wrapped up around our own egos and their pathetic fears and aspirations, we inhabit the narrow space of the pusilla anima (the little soul), but when we forget our awful seriousness, when we live in a risky freedom, when we leap ecstatically beyond what we can know and control, we inhabit the infinite expanse of the magna anima (the great soul). ... Holy people are those who realize that they participate in something and Someone infinitely greater than themselves, that they are but a fragment of Reality. Far from crushing them, this awareness makes them great, capacious, whole.
(Barron Bridging the Great Divide)
In the Gospel today we hear Mary’s great hymn in praise of God in her life, her joy at being mysteriously chosen, specially formed, to incarnate God in this world. Her first words are striking, from the Latin in the Douay–Rheims Bible they are,
And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. (Luke 1:46 DRV)
Mary’s soul, Greek: psuchē (ψυχή), the center of her being, her life principle, exists within the “magna anima,” the great soul, resulting in God’s increase in this world. It is her spirit, Greek: pnĕuma (πνεῦμα), her life’s breath that exudes joy from every part of Mary’s being. Her spirit proclaims the effect of living in the “magna anima.”
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For the Mother of God, there is never any division or pull to live in the little self. Her existence is bound up in God whose strength lifts the lowly, fills the hungry with goodness, and never forgets His promise of mercy. Mary, the Mother of God, our heavenly Mother, our life, our sweetness, and our hope, is the pattern for a life lived for God, the “magna anima.” This is Mary’s passion, a life lived in abandonment to the love that magnifies the Lord; it is the joy which we can feel pulsating through the Magnificat in today’s Gospel.
As the season of Advent closes and the joy of Christmas spills with grace all around us, remember all the saints who lived their life such that Christ flowed through them and into the world. They are those whose souls magnify the Lord and whose spirits never cease rejoicing in Christ. Throughout the Christmas season, give thanks for your Savior and for Mary whose undivided love for God magnified Him at His birth, making Him tangible.
Mary ceaselessly guides us to her son, to salvation, and a life that magnifies the Lord in this world. Throughout the Christmas season and beyond, strive to extract yourself from the instinctive smallness of our own selfishness and make the ecstatic leap to live the adventure of life in the great soul, the “magna anima,” the ocean of divine mercy and love who is God.
May you have a “Mary” Christmas! May our souls magnify the Lord. And our spirit rejoice in God our Savior!
Barron, Robert. Bridging the Great Divide: Musings of a Post-Liberal, Post-Conservative Evangelical Catholic. Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2004. Print.)
Douay-Rheims Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate (DRV). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009. Print.
Kosloski, P. (2023, September 23). St. Padre Pio: His life, his miracles, and his legacy. Aleteia. https://aleteia.org/2021/04/12/st-padre-pio-his-life-his-miracles-and-his-legacy/
Mysteries revealed about Mary. Message Mysteries Revealed about Mary 2a of 7. (n.d.). http://search.stillsmallvoicetriage.org/message.php?id=1112&langCode=en-US
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.