Today brought to an end an ongoing series of catechesis--begun by the late John Paul II--which covered the entire sequence of Psalms and canticles that constitute the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours and Vespers prayers.
The catechesis came during Pope Benedict’s regular Wednesday audience, held today at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
Speaking before a large crowd, the Holy Father said that "Having reached the end of this textual pilgrimage - like a journey through a flower garden of praise, invocation, prayer and contemplation - we now come to the canticle that closes the celebration of Vespers: the Magnificat."
The Magnificat is Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah. It is recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
The Pope called it "a canticle that reveals ... the spirituality ... of those faithful who recognized themselves as 'poor,' not only in detaching themselves from all forms of idolatry of wealth and power, but also in profound humility of heart, free from the temptation to pride and open to the irruption of divine saving grace."
He explained that the first part of the Magnificat is "the celebration of divine grace which irrupted into the heart and the life of Mary, making her Mother of the Lord,"
But, he said, Mary's personal witness was "not solitary, ... because the Virgin Mother was aware she had a mission to achieve for humanity, and her own story is part of the history of salvation."
Pope Benedict went on to explain that in the second part of the canticle, "the voice of Mary is joined by the entire community of faithful" who celebrate God's actions in history.
"The 'style'“, he said, “that inspires the Lord of history is clear: He takes the side of the least and the lowliest."
Benedict used the words of St. Ambrose to illustrate this point. He wrote, "May each one of us”, the Saint wrote, “glorify the Lord with the soul of Mary. ... If, according to the flesh, the mother of Christ is one, then according to the faith, all souls generate Christ."