Mary’s song of praise

Published December 16, 2013

(This article first appeared in the December issue of the Anglican Journal.)

Chosen to carry the Christ Child in her womb and to bring him to birth, Mary asks the angel Gabriel, “How can this be?” The angel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”(Luke1:34-35).

In a gem of a book titled Portrait of a Woman, Herbert O’Driscoll writes of Mary’s annunciation: “What had been asked of her was unique, yet an echo of it reaches all of us if only we have ears to hear…Fully and freely she said ‘yes’ and for those who say ‘yes’ nothing is ever the same again.”

Having declared herself to be the servant of the Lord, Mary then took to the hills to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also with child. (Her child would be named John and he would go before the Lord to prepare his way.)

Elizabeth greets Mary with these beautiful words: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke1:42).

An overjoyed Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1: 46-47).

Of her song of praise, O’Driscoll writes, “It would be taken from Mary’s lips and augmented into a mighty anthem… In the centuries-long monastic round of offices, it would welcome the approach of evening. It would become a centre point around which a jewel called English Evensong would revolve…Yet it would also be a dark and terrible song of revolution. It would be quoted in societies moving through social turmoil, and on continents seething with a desire for change.” In the longings for justice and peace in our world, it is still a very powerful song:

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
his mercy sure, from age to age the same;
his holy name-the Lord, the mighty one.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by;
proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children and for evermore!

Text: Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-56); para. Timothy Dudley-Smith (#362, Common Praise). © 1962, renewal 1990 Hope Publishing Co.

I invite you to consider the extent to which Mary’s song is the song in your heart, and that of your parish and our entire church.

In pondering these matters, I pray you enjoy a Holy Advent and a Blessed Christmas.



  • Fred Hiltz

    Archbishop Fred Hiltz was primate of the Anglican Church of Canada from 2007 to 2019.

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