In the Gospel of Luke, when Mary arrives at the home of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary proclaims a hymn of praise to God (Luke 1:46-55). The first part of it focuses on the greatness of God and what he has done in Mary’s life, while the second part talks about how God brings down the rich and powerful and lifts up the humble and lowly. The hymn finishes with a reference to God’s promise to the Israelites. These verses are often called the Magnificat because in Latin the first verse is “Magnificat anima mea Dominum.” It is recited each evening as part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official daily prayers of the Church.
The Magnificat also provides a glimpse into Mary’s faith, character, and spirituality. Pope John Paul II said it memorably in his 1987 encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater: “The words used by Mary on the threshold of Elizabeth’s house are an inspired profession of her faith, in which her response to the revealed word is expressed with the religious and poetical exultation of her whole being towards God. In these sublime words, which are simultaneously very simple and wholly inspired by the sacred texts of the people of Israel, Mary’s personal experience, the ecstasy of her heart, shines forth.”