Monday, February 13, 2012

The Magnificat and Hannah's Psalm

I started writing this post around Christmas time but never finished it but better late than never… right?

This Christmas the LDS church released a series of Bible videos from the life of Jesus. One of the first ones they released was a video of Elisabeth greeting Mary and Mary giving her psalm, also known as “The Magnificat”. I’ve read the words to the Magnificat many times before but as I watched this video and heard the actress repeat Mary’s beautiful testimony I was struck with how similar it is to the psalm that Hannah gives in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

I went back and re-read the words of these two amazing women and discovered that they are in deed very similar. Let me show you.

Mary’s Psalm (Luke 1:46-55)

Hannah’s Psalm (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

My soul doth magnify the Lord,

… mine horn is exalted in the Lord

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

My heart rejoiceth in the Lord… my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.

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

Hannah calls herself a “handmaiden” in 1 Samuel 1:11.

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

There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee:

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

..for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.

…he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

…The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

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

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

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

They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased:

He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

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

As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

…and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

I have been pondering on these two psalms and the women who gave them for several months. At first it seemed unusual to me that two women, hundreds of years apart and in very different circumstances, would be prompted to give almost the exact same message.

Yet I have pondered on their messages I have come to see that even though they had different experiences and challenges in life that both Mary and Hannah understood the true nature of God. They understood who He was, the immensity of His power and glory, His great mercy, and His love for His children. They comprehended the importance of His work and were humbled to be a part of it. They both call themselves “handmaidens” of the Lord and were willing to submit to His will, even though it was different than how they had planned for their lives to go. For Mary submitting meant being willing to bear a child before she was “ready” and for Hannah submitting meant having faith that God’s timing for her life had a reason and a purpose. Even though their trials were different both of these women understood that God is in perfect control of the universe and that it is He who has the power to grant life; He who has the power to feed the hungry and clothe the poor; He who has the power to control the destiny of nations and kings; and He alone who has the power to grant salvation and exaltation.

The more that I have thought about it the more I think Hannah and Mary's Psalms are the songs that ALL women sing in their souls when they get a glimpse of the immensity of God’s love and power. As mortals we are so small and insignificant in the grand scheme of the Universe, but when we choose to become one of the Lord’s "handmaidens" and learn to trust Him we are able to gain power far greater than our own. And when you get a glimpse of that power I don’t think you can help but sing, like Mary did “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my Spirit hath rejoice in God my Savior."

It is just incredible that the Lord of all Creation allows us, women and men, to be included in His work in even the smallest degree.


  1. Thank you for knowing the scriptures well enough and sharing this pattern. I'm happy to be a woman and hope to be like Mary and Hannah!

  2. I think it's also a testimony to Mary's maturity and wisdom at such a young age that she knew her scriptures so well and could quote much of Hannah's song. How many of our Beehives could do that?

  3. I love the new blog design! Very classy.

  4. Thanks for the insights Heather!! Good luck with your presentations and classes!! You'll do great! And I LOVE the new look :-)

  5. Thank you so much for this! I love Mary's testimony and I never knew there was a name for it.

    I've been studying Mary off and on since Christmas and I really feel an affinity for her. She is the kind of person I aspire to be.