The Magnificat

The Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Detail of Sculpture on Chartres Cathedral
The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, from a sculpture on Chartres Cathedral. Julian Kumar / Getty Images

The Magnificat is a canticle—a hymn taken from the Bible. When the angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, he told her that her cousin Elizabeth was also with child. Mary went to see her cousin (the Visitation), and the baby in Elizabeth's womb—John the Baptist—leapt with joy when Elizabeth heard Mary's voice (a sign of his cleansing from Original Sin).

The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is the Virgin Mary's response to Elizabeth's greeting, glorifying God and thanking Him for choosing her to bear His Son. It is used in Vespers, the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayers of the Catholic Church. We can incorporate it into our evening prayer, too.

The Annunciation and the Visitation gave us another famous Marian prayer, the Hail Mary.

The Magnificat


My soul doth magnify the Lord:
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour
Because He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaid:
For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His Name.
And His mercy is from generation until generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath showed might with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the lowly.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy:
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

Latin Text of the Magnificat


Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum.
Et exultávit spíritus meus: in Deo salutári meo.
Quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllae suae:
Ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes.
Quia fécit mihi mágna qui pótens est: et sánctum nómen eius.
Et misericórdia eius in progénies et progénies timéntibus eum.
Fécit poténtiam in bráchio suo: dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui.
Depósuit poténtes de sede: et exaltávit húmiles.
Esuriéntes implévit bonis: et dívites dimísit inánes.
Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum: recordátus misericórdiae suae.
Sicut locútus est ad patres nostros: Ábraham, et sémini eius in saecula.

Definitions of Words Used in the Magnificat

Doth: does

Magnify: extol, glorify, make greater (or make the greatness known)

Hath: has

Lowliness: humility

Handmaid: a female servant, especially one attached to her master by affection

Henceforth: from this time forward

All generations: all people until the end of time

Blessed: holy

From generation until generations: from now until the end of time

Fear: in this case, the fear of the Lord, which is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; a desire not to offend God

His arm: a metaphor for power; in this case, the power of God

Conceit: excessive pride

Put down . . . from their seat: humbled

Exalted: raised up, elevated to a higher position

Lowly: humble

Mindful: conscious, attentive

Our fathers: ancestors

His seed: descendants