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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O Rex Gentium
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
as Mary waited for the birth of your Son,
so we wait for his coming in glory;
bring us through the birth pangs of this present age
to see, with her, our great salvation
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Give praise, you servants of the Lord,
O praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
from this time forth and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
let the name of the Lord be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations
and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, that has his throne so high,
yet humbles himself to behold the things of heaven and earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ashes,
To set them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a place in the house
and makes her a joyful mother of children.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
And Mary remained with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned to her home.
Every service of Evensong or Evening Prayer contains the words of Mary’s great hymn of praise, the Magnificat, just as every service of Matins or Morning Prayer should contain the words of Zechariah’s song which we know as the Benedictus. Both of these passages have been set to great music by innumerable composers down the ages. Some settings are grand and triumphant, while others are simpler and more contemplative. Whether these words are sung or said, their daily recitation is important because they stand as a constant reminder of all that God did for humanity when Jesus came into this world in the form of a baby, born in a stable, some two thousand years ago.
Mary’s great song of praise can be compared to that of Hannah, which we read at the beginning of the second chapter of the first book of Samuel. Hannah, like Mary and Elizabeth, gave birth to a son in miraculous circumstances. Her son was Samuel, and her song of praise came as she offered her new-born son to a life of service to God. Mary would have known Hannah’s song, which is evident in the similarities we find between the two texts. However, we must not view the Magnificat as a mere repetition of the earlier text. The Magnificat is different even though both songs are prophetic in the way they look forward to the rule of the two sons at the beginning of new ages in the history of humanity.
Hannah’s song of praise looks forward to the rule of Samuel, who will pray for, and be blessed with great wisdom. Mary’s song of praise looks forward to the reign of Jesus, the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah. Hannah rejoices in the Lord’s gift to her and to the nation of Israel; Mary rejoices in something much bigger than that. Mary’s song of praise marks the beginning of the universal reign of God over the whole world, for the whole of time.
Every day, at Evensong or Evening Prayer, we join in saying, with Mary: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. For Mary this was a profound statement of faith. What is it for us? Is it just a wonderful text that we repeat out of a sense of duty? Or, is it a daily reminder of the profound nature of our faith? Is it a text we like to hear sung to beautiful and varied music, or is it a prayer that constantly reminds us of all that God has done for us?
Mary used the words of scripture as the basis for the outpouring of her joy at being chosen by God. Let us pray that we might use these words as the basis for our own expression of commitment and faith, because we know that God has also chosen us.
Prayers of intercession
Joyful in the presence of the Lord, let us pray for the Church and for the world.
Prepare the Church to receive with joy and thanksgiving the coming of the Lord at his Nativity. May all Christian people join with Mary his mother to proclaim his greatness.
Raise up the lowly ones of the world and give them fullness of life. Be merciful to those who are deceived by power and wealth. Do not send the rich away empty.
As we prepare again to celebrate this Christmas time, bless us, our families, friends and neighbours, with purity of spirit and holiness of desire. Shield us from selfish pleasure, make us mindful of the needs of many in our community.
We pray for all who are hungry, whether for food to sustain their bodies or faith to nourish their souls. Comfort and heal those who through sickness or poverty can feel little joy at this time.
We give thanks for the departed who have magnified their Lord on earth and now praise him in his heavenly kingdom. May they find their eternal joy in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints.
We pray in the name of Christ, Son of God and son of Mary.
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance
and prepare the way of our salvation:
give us grace to heed their warnings
and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy
the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.