EXEGESIS -- THE VISITATION.
"By what justice, for what good works, on account of what fidelity of soul, have I merited this that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?
"For behold, as soon as thy salutation came to my ears the infant leapt with exultation in my womb. Holy was the soul of the blessed John. Hence, even whilst still shut up in his mother's womb, and yet to come into the world, he knew, as though by experience of sense, those things whereof Israel was ignorant. And hence he leapt, and not simply leapt, but leapt for you. For he felt that his Lord was come, to sanctify His servant. May my lot be to be called a fool by the unbelieving, for believing such things....
"Blessed is she who hath believed, for there shall be a fulfillment of those things that were told her by the Lord. Whereupon the Blessed Mary too magnifies the Lord Jesus. Her soul magnifies the Lord, her spirit God...."*
"Before John, Elisabeth prophesies, before the birth of the Lord and Saviour, Mary prophesies. And as sin began from the woman, and then reached even to the man, so too the commencement of salvation had its origin from women, that the rest of women too, laying aside the frailty of their sex, might imitate the life and conversation of those holy women, who are now most conspicuous in the Gospel. Let us then consider the virginal prophecy. My soul, said Mary, doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath exulted in God my Saviour. Two things, namely the soul and spirit, render a twofold praise. The soul extols the Lord, the spirit, God. Not that one is the praise of the Lord, the other that of God; but because He who is God, the same is also the Lord; and He who is the Lord, the same is also God. The question is, how one can magnify the Lord. For if the Lord can receive neither increase, nor decrease, and what He is, He is; how does Mary now say, My soul doth magnify the Lord? If I consider the Lord our Saviour to be the Image of the invisible God, ** and I behold my soul as made to the image of the Creator, so as to be an image of an image -- for my soul is not specifically an image of God, but has been wrought to the likeness of a former image -- then shall I see how -- after the manner of those, who are used to paint images, and have, for instance, taken a certain portrait of a king to express the principal likeness, and commend the excellence of their art -- each one of us, forming his soul to the image of Christ, fashions for Him a larger or smaller image -- one either out of date and smeared, or a bright, shining, and even splendid copy of the principal and original likeness. If then I make a grand image of the image -- I mean in my soul -- and magnify it by act, thought, and speech, then is the image of God made great, and the Lord Himself whose image is in my heart, is magnified. And as the Lord is magnified in proportion to the likeness of our image, so if we should fall into sin, does that likeness grow faint and decrease: and instead of the Saviour's image we put on other likenesses; instead of the image of the Word of wisdom, of justice and the other virtues, we assume the form of the devil, so that of us may be said, Ye serpents and generation of vipers...."***
"Thus the soul of Mary first magnifies the Lord, and then exults in God. For unless we first believe we are unable to exult.
"For He hath looked upon, she says, the humility of His handmaiden.