8 September – The Nativity of Our Lady

Who is Mary?

Blessed John Henry Newman indicates to us where we will find the answer. This is what he says about Mary: “She has sketched for us her own portrait in the Magnificat”. Our Lady makes known to us that it is more in frailty than in strength that Christ reveals Himself upon earth; more in littleness than in greatness; more in lowliness than in glory. The Magnificat speaks of her humility as the ultimate root of her greatness. The essence of Mary’s humility was precisely her single-hearted devotion to the plan and purpose of God.

In this canticle she does not refer to herself. Only incidentally does she speak of herself, and it is to say that she is ‘lowly’. Here, she teaches us humility. To a woman like Mary, with a tremendous capacity for grateful wonder, ‘her’ things do not have much importance, only the things of God do. Mary exults because God works in her, not to accomplish her purposes, but His! Through the Angel, God addresses Mary as ‘full of grace’. Yet Mary’s election to be the Mother of God does not eliminate her humility. Humility continues to define Mary’s stance before the loving God. She is exalted because she shares the humilitas Dei in the fullest measure. She was so simple and so lowly, yet so great! As God’s lowly handmaid, Mary embodies God’s greatness and glory. The presence of God in her was unique. Mary’s being immaculate and full of grace must have been reflected not only in her face, but also in all her comportment.

We see in the Magnificat that Mary was going through an extraordinary experience of God. Her soul ‘exulted’, mad with joy for her God. One may find it ‘surprising’ that Mary would interrupt her habitual silence and reserve with such an exalted canticle. There could be only one explanation to this: her deep piety was swept up by the greatness of what God had done in her. More could not be expected for the silent character of the Virgin than that she would burst aloud in a joyful outpouring of words. When she does break the silence, it is to express her belief and to sing to the Lord.

To us, Dominicans, she says: “I am she whom you greet every evening, and when you say ‘Turn then our Advocate’, I prostrate myself before my Son for the preservation of this Order.”  

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