The Magnificat – A Revolutionary Hymn

 From the Wilton Diptych c1395 -1399 National Gallery London

My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
   for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.


Here we have a passage which has become one of the great hymns of the church – the Magnificat. It is a passage which is saturated in the Old Testament. It is specially kin to Hannah’s song of praise in 1 Samuel 2: 1-10. It has been said that religion is dope, the opiate of the people; but the Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world. The Magnificat speaks of three of the revolutions of God.

He scatters the proud in the plans of their hearts. That is a moral revolution. Christianity is the death of Pride. Why? Because if a man sets his life beside the life of Christ it turns the last vestiges of pride from him… Christ enables a man to see himself as he really is. It is the deathblow to Pride. The moral Revolution has begun.

He casts down the mighty – he exalts the humble. That is a social revolution.  Christianity puts an end to the world’s labels and prestige. When we realise what Christ did for all men it is impossible to talk about the Common Man. The social ranks and grades are gone.

He has filled thos who are hungry those who are rich are sent empty away. This is an economic revolution. A non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass as much as he can get. A Christian society is a society where no man dares to have too much when others have too little. There is loveliness in the Magnificat but in that loveliness there is dynamite. Christianity begets a revolution in each man and a revolution in the world.

From Wiliam Barclay Study Bible, Gospel of Luke


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