As we near the end of Advent I though we would take a look at the Canticle of Mary. This is one of the eight oldest hymns and perhaps the oldest one about Mary. The words are taken from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-52) at the Visitation Elizabeth greets Mary with the first half of the Hail Mary and Mary’s response is the Canticle or Song of Mary it is also known as the Magnificat (from My Soul magnifies the Lord) and in the Eastern Church it is simply the Ode of the Theotokos. It is typically prayed during Vespers or Evening Prayer in the Western Churches (Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican) Protestants sing it during Advent and in the East it is sung during Sunday Matins. A version of the Canticle in English is as follows.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.
In the Eastern Church after the Canticle itself they add ‘You who are more to be honoured than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, you who, uncorrupted, gave birth to God the Word, in reality the God-bearer, we exalt you.’ or “More honourable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: true Theotokos, we magnify thee.”