Throughout history the Catholic Church prays Mary’s “Magnificat” in every trial that she endures.
The Church has had its fair share of suffering throughout the centuries. Whether its Roman persecution, medieval plagues, or theological controversies, the Church always remains faithful in its devotion to God, especially through the intercession of the Virgin Mary.In particular, St. John Paul II referred to Mary’s “Magnificat” (her words recorded in Luke 1:46-55) as an essential prayer for the “pilgrim Church” in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater.
The Virgin Mother is constantly present on this journey of faith of the People of God towards the light. This is shown in a special way by the canticle of the “Magnificat,” which, having welled up from the depths of Mary’s faith at the Visitation, ceaselessly re-echoes in the heart of the Church down the centuries.
The Church, which from the beginning has modeled her earthly journey on that of the Mother of God, constantly repeats after her the words of the Magnificat. From the depths of the Virgin’s faith at the Annunciation and the Visitation, the Church derives the truth about the God of the Covenant: the God who is Almighty and does “great things” for man: “holy is his name.” In the Magnificat the Church sees uprooted that sin which is found at the outset of the earthly history of man and woman, the sin of disbelief and of “little faith” in God.
Furthermore, John Paul II notes that it is a prayer the Church repeats in every trial.
Moving forward through trial and tribulation, the Church is strengthened by the power of God’s grace promised to [Mary] by the Lord, so that in the weakness of the flesh she may not waver from perfect fidelity, but remain a bride worthy of her Lord; that moved by the Holy Spirit she may never cease to renew herself, until through the Cross she arrives at the light which knows no setting.
The Church, which even “amid trials and tribulations” does not cease repeating with Mary the words of the Magnificat, is sustained by the power of God’s truth, proclaimed on that occasion with such extraordinary simplicity. At the same time, by means of this truth about God, the Church desires to shed light upon the difficult and sometimes tangled paths of man’s earthly existence.
Mary’s words of praise remind us to magnify the Lord and give praise to God who “has done great things for me.” It encourages us to see the many blessings God has given to us, even when it seems like he is absent.
Above all, the words of the Magnificat challenge us to trust God and his mercy, putting our faith in him, rather than ourselves. It puts the focus on God, instead of our own weak efforts to do good in the world.
John Paul II concludes this section of his encyclical with a reflection on the freedom Mary experienced, expressed most eloquently in the Magnificat.
Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.