The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Magnificat

The Canticle of the Blessed Virgin

The following table contains both the Latin prayer and an English translation.

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;

My soul doth magnify ["declare the greatness of"] the Lord.
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo, Salutari meo. And my spirit rejoiceth; in God my Saviour.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generatones. Because He hath looked down on the lowliness of His handmaid: for behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: et sanctum nomen ejus. Because the Mighty One hath done great things for me: and holy is His name.
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum. And His mercy is generation to generation: on those who fear Him.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui. He showeth might in His arm: Hi scattereth the proud in the conceit of their heart.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles. He casteth down the mighty from their throne: and exalteth the lowly.
Esurientes implevit bonis: et divites dimisit inanes. He filleth the hungry with good things: and the rich He sendeth away empty.
Suscepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae. He hath received His servant Israel: being mindful of His mercy.
Sicut locutes est ad patres nostros, Abraham, et semini ejus in saecula. And He spake to our fathers: to Abraham and his seed forever.

Sheet Music "Magnificat" by Henry Smart from Henry Sloane Coffin and Ambrose White Vernon, eds., Hymns of the Kingdom of God. New York: The A. S. Barnes Company, 1910, #497.

The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 1, verses 26-56:

1:26 And in the sixth month [of the pregnancy of Elizabeth of her son, John the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

1:27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

1:28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

1:29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.

1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

1:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

1:40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

1:42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

1:43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

1:44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

1:45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

1:46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

1:47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

1:48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

1:49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

1:50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

1:51 He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

1:52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

1:53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

1:54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

1:55 As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

The Prayer of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.

2:2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

2:3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

2:4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.

2:5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.

2:6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.

2:7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them.

2:9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.

2:10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Both citations are from the King James Version.

Picture left: "The Angel Brings The Vision To Mary" by Gustave Doré.

One hymn, of many, based on The Magnificat is The Song of Mary. And see the version by George Wither, That Magnify'd The Lord May Be.

Another hymn is Thus Said Mary of Great Honor (Also known by the first line of the burden, Unto Marie he that love hath), by James Ryman. Index no. 3725. MS: Cambridge University Ee.1.12, fols. 26a-27b (1492). Editions: Zupitza, Archiv 89, 189-90 [1893]; EEC, no. 257.

The visit from the angel Gabriel, known as "The Annunciation," is celebrated in a number of carols, one of the oldest being Angelus Ad Virginem; there are numerous translations based on this Latin carol. Likewise there are numerous carols that celebrate Mary's response, including: Magnify the Lord To-day. See also, from the modern Liturgia Horarum, Magníficat.

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