The Magnificat is a canticle usually sung during the Sunday Matins service before the irmos of the ninth ode of the canon. It is taken from the words the Theotokos is reported to have said to describe the experience of being pregnant with Jesus. Shortly after being informed by archangel Gabriel of her holy pregnancy, according to the Biblical account, Mary the Theotokos visited her cousin Elisabeth the wife of Zechariah (herself pregnant at the time with John the Baptist); and in response to Elizabeth's salutation she spoke the words of the Magnificat, which accordingly appears in the Gospel of Luke, 1:46-55.
Although like other New Testament texts the Magnificat was originally written in Greek, in the Western Church is most often to be found in Latin or the vernacular. Its name comes from the first word of the Latin version.
English (Book of Common Prayer):
- My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
- For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden; For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
- For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his name; And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
- He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
- He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek; He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.
- He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel: as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
It is accompanied by a refrain that is sung between the verses: