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Preface II of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This preface reminds us in Mary’s words that the liturgy, whatever the occasion, is a moment to praise God.
The Church praises God with the words of Mary
When Mary accepted Gabriel’s invitation and became the Mother of God the first thing she did was to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was with child (John the Baptist, to be exact) and entering into the last trimester of her pregnancy (see Luke 1:36–46). No sooner did she enter the house and Elizabeth started heaping praise on her, praise in part that we repeat with every Hail Mary we pray. Everyone sees the importance of giving praise where praise is due.
“For truly even to earth’s ends you have done great things and extended your abundant mercy from age to age: when you looked on the lowliness of your handmaid, you gave us through her the author of our salvation, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
If praise for Mary is now standard operating procedure for Catholics, the praise of Mary for God is even more so. Today’s preface reminds us of all the wonders Mary declared in what we know call the Magnificat, wonders for which we can praise the Lord too (see Luke 1:46–55):
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. Did you every consider how little you are in comparison to God and how amazing it is that he created you and pays attention to you at all? Mary did.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary knew her accomplishments, the reasons we call her “Blessed” in every Hail Mary, were thanks to the greatness of the Lord, not just her efforts. She and we know that the Lord deserves the true praise for everything holy we do in life.
And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. Mary knew that the path to sin starts with a lack of respect for the Lord, a respect easily lost, but even more easily regained when we turn to his mercy. It’s no coincidence that we start each celebration of the Eucharist with an invocation of mercy (see Introductory Rites-The Kyrie Eleison).
He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; The Incarnation and Mary’s invitation to be the Mother of God are a cold bucket of water on anyone with delusions of grandeur, importance, or entitlement. Jesus and Mary had no such delusions; they loved their Heavenly Father and wanted to please him. We participate in the Eucharist knowing the Lord is lavishing something on us to which we’re not entitled. It’s pure unmerited gift, something humbling and beautiful.
…he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. We speak of the poor as the “needy,” because the rich have everything they need, or at least think they need. If there’s one thing we all need it is the Eucharist, or else the journey to God will be too long for us (see Preface II of the Most Holy Eucharist). It’s not a question of being equipped, but properly equipped. At Heaven’s gates they don’t accept Visa, MasterCard, Bitcoin, or any other currency or bribe. The only way is holiness, holiness we receive through worthy reception of the Eucharist.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever. Every moment of salvation history, even our moment, is a history of promises fulfilled. Mary never had an attitude of “What have you done for me lately?” She and we remember that the Lord has always been faithful in his promises to us, even when we haven’t been faithful to him.
Everyone experiences moments of disappointment in their lives. Sometimes we don’t feel like praising anyone. Mary’s Magnificat helps us remember all those things for which we should rekindle our praise. The Almighty has done great things for us too. Let’s praise him for it.