Events that affect a large number of people are impressive. The pictures of celebrations from the end of World War II are iconic. The number of lives affected by WWII – those lost and those saved – is incredibly significant. An overwhelming feeling of elation and liberation undoubtedly filled the hearts of entire nations and continents. It’s hard to imagine such extreme moments of unity and joy, but our gratitude for those who served and fought for us continues despite the passing of time.
Today’s feast is a divine twist on the celebration of victory, and the memory of of our God-Hero. Victory is had at a precise moment. Historians analyze the causes of war, the relative strength of opposing forces, and the famous “decisive moment” that ends up being the turning point of the struggle. The feast of the Visitation is the moment the Blessed Virgin Mary first expresses her divine joy at the Lord’s victory. Elizabeth’s joy is multiplied greatly as the babe in her womb reveals by a victory dance that the Hero has arrived. Mary tells us that her elation is an outpouring of God Himself. The Magnificat does not celebrate the victory that Jesus will have, but the one he has already achieved by taking on flesh in her womb – the victory of grace he won in the womb of Elizabeth that also conquered her heart. The war is won, the skirmishes that remain cannot turn back the tide.
EPHREM THE SYRIAN:
[Mary] revealed to Elizabeth what the angel spoke to her in secret, and that he called her blessed because she believed in the realization of the prophecy and the teaching that she heard. Then Mary gently brought forth the fruit of what she heard from the angel and Elizabeth: “My soul bless the Lord.” Elizabeth had said, “Blessed is she who has believed,” and Mary replied, “From henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” It was then that Mary began to preach the new kingdom. “She returned home after three months,” so that the Lord whom she was carrying would not begin service before his servant. She returned to her husband to clarify the matter, for if she had become pregnant through human fruit, it would have been appropriate for her to flee from her husband.1
We ask how a soul can magnify the Lord. The Lord can undergo neither increase nor loss. He is what he is. Thus, why does Mary now say, “My soul magnifies the Lord?” … My soul is not directly an image of God. It was created as the image of an Image that already existed.… Each one of us shapes his soul into the image of Christ and makes either a larger or a smaller image of him. The image is either dingy and dirty, or it is clean and bright and corresponds to the form of the original. Therefore, when I make the image of the Image—that is, my soul—large and magnify it by work, thought and speech, then the Lord himself is magnified in my soul, because it is an image of him. Just as the Lord is thus magnified in our image of him, so too, if we are sinners, he diminishes and decreases.2
Those whom he earlier calls “the proud” he here names “the mighty.” Undoubtedly they are called proud because they extol themselves beyond measure as mighty with regard to their condition—not, however, because they are truly mighty, but because they trust in their own strength and scorn to seek their Maker’s assistance. They, however, are truly mighty who know how to say with the apostle, “We can do all things in him who strengthens us, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Concerning them it is written, God does not cast off the mighty since he himself is mighty. … However, this can also be properly understood to mean that sometimes those who had been rightly cast down by the Lord because of their self-glorification may in turn return to the grace of humility when he has mercy on them.3
- COMMENTARY ON TATIAN’S DIATESSARON 1.28. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 24). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 8.1-3. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (pp. 24–25). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON THE GOSPELS 1.4. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 26). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.