Faith, God, Virgin Mary

Fear of the LORD Teaches Wisdom; Humility Precedes Honour

The Magnificat, taken from Luke’s Gospel (1:46-55), is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s hymn of praise to the Lord. Mary’s Magnificat is a prophesy of Christ’s life; not just an insight into salvation history. If you look at the stanzas you can see how the Magnificat mirrors the Life of Christ. It is an excellent and fruitful custom of the Church to recite or sing Mary’s hymn. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue [1].

How does Mary know how to compose a hymn? Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit and at the Annunciation the Angel Gabriel declared, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Mary is the handmaid of the Lord and through cooperation with God, the Holy Spirit speaks through her. Just after the Word becomes Flesh, within her womb, Mary, through the Holy Spirit is already proclaiming the Word of God, the Gospel.

Mary did not claim any glory for herself; rather, she proclaimed the great holiness and mercy of God toward those who fear Him. “And his mercy is on those that fear him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:50)

One kind of fear is that which a servant has of a cruel master, or which a man has of a precipice, the plague, or death. This is not the “fear” which we ought to have toward God. Rather it is the fear which a dutiful child has of a kind and virtuous father, a fear of injuring his feelings; of dishonouring him by our life; of doing anything which he would disapprove. It is on those who have such fear of God that his mercy descends. This is the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom (Cf. Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28). God’s mercy will descend on the children and children’s children of those that fear him and keep his commandments (Cf. Exodus 20:6).

The book of Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). And that “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence” (Proverbs 14:26). I personally think that the essence of the Magnificat is captured in Proverbs 15:33 “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honour is humility.”

“The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom,” It is “the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10; it leads unto it, instructs a man in it; by means of it he attains to true spiritual and evangelical wisdom; it teaches him to abstain from sin, and to serve the Lord; and to seek the salvation of his soul in the way God has appointed, which is by his Son Jesus Christ, which to do is the highest wisdom.

“And before honour is humility”; the fear of God and humility go together, they are inseparable; and as fear is the way to wisdom, humility is the way to glory; Christ’s humiliation was before his exaltation; men are first humbled and laid low in their own eyes, and then they are raised out of their low estate, and are set among princes; and shall inherit the throne of glory, being made kings and priests unto God; it is a frequent saying of Christ’s, “he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11, 18:14; Matt 23:12); such a person is raised to a high estate of grace, and at last to eternal glory.

The Magnificat teaches us the value of humility. It offers an example of the blessings that come to the one who walks mindfully, according to God’s instruction. It reminds us of the honour bestowed by God on those who truly fear Him.

Reference 1: Saint Bede the Venerable; Spiritual Reading, Office of Readings, feast of the Visitation

Let us praise God with “Mary’s Song”:


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