The Catholic tradition of prayer with regard to Our Blessed Mother Mary is typically one of prayer “to” Mary, in asking for her help interceding for us, before God.  However there is more that she does us, for we need to also pray “with” Mary, by learning to pray the way she prayed, and to pray the prayers she prayed.  Where do we find help to pray the way she did? Luke, chapter 1, in the Gospel reading covering Mary’s visit to her cousin Elisabeth. In part of this passage, we read a prayer know as “The Magnificat”. For people that pray the Liturgy of the Hours, this is a familiar prayer, because it is prayed every day as part of Vespers (or Evening Prayer).  I have been praying the Canticle of Mary (as it is known in the Liturgy of the Hours) since December of 2008 and I have a favorite verse, the first one:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”

(Luke 1: 46  Grail translation)


Note: Magnificat is Latin for magnify. Most bibles translate the passage as “My soul magnifies the Lord…”

First, let us start with understanding what “My soul” means. I frequently listen to Catholic radio. Not to long ago, a guest on some program was a Catholic Priest who was explaining the nature of humanity: “…you do not have a body, you are your body, and you do not have a soul, you are your soul”.

So lets put the two of these together:  My soul (everything and all of who I am) proclaims the greatness of the Lord. Not just a part of me, not just my mind (my thoughts), not just my voice (hot air making my vocal cords vibrate), not just my heart (my emotions), but everything and all of me. Another way to think of this: All of who and what I am, that was created in the image and likeness of God, proclaims the greatness of the God who created me. How is our Blessed Mother Mary able to pray this way? 1) She is free from sin.  2) She is filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:28)  3) She has knowledge of Sacred Scripture.

A study of the Magnificat shows that this prayer is modeled upon the song of Hanna (see 1 Samuel 2:1) Other parts of the Magnificat repeat themes from other books of the Old testament and show that Mary was educated in the Jewish Sacred Scriptures.  Think about that. The Magnificat shows that the Mother of God was knowledgeable in the Word of God.  Next question: what was Mary’s prayer book? Her prayer book was the prayer book from Sacred Scripture: The Psalms (the prayer book of all the Jewish people including the 12 apostles). So a real simple and easy to pray the same prayers Mary prayed, is to pray with the Psalms.

So just like the Psalms, the Magnificat, this wonderful prayer of the Our Blessed Mother Mary teaches us two things:
1) how to pray (with your soul),
2) what to pray (proclaim the greatness of the Lord).

A final question to ponder: Where else in the Bible have we read about this concept of “one’s whole soul loving God”? Answer: the first commandment.  This prayer, The Magnificat, is one way (of many) that Mary honors and keeps the first commandment. The Magnificat is a simple and beautiful example of prayer for us to follow. A prayer we can praise God with every day.

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