The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 9.

Elizabeth, describing how the God-man hidden within Mary worked on her soul and the new life within her old body, exclaimed: "Why, as soon as ever the voice of thy greeting sounded in my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed art thou for thy believing; the message that was brought to thee from the Lord shall have fulfillment." (Luke 1:44, 45) Eve had believed the serpent; Elizabeth now praises Mary for blotting out the ruin of Eve by believing in God.

But no sooner did an unborn child leap with joy in a prison house of flesh than a song leaped with joy to Mary's lips. To sing a song is to possess one's soul. Maria, the sister of Moses, sang after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. Deborah sang after the defeat of the Canaanites. Wherever liberty is, there the free sing. Elizabeth's husband sang the Benedictus to usher in the New Order, for Our Lord came "not to destroy the law but to fulfill it." Yet only as a Mirror, in whom Elizabeth sees reflected the unborn Emmanuel, does Mary glow with the song of those future days when He alone shall be the Light of the World. Mary smiles through tears of joy, and she makes rainbow of a song. At least until the Birth, the Woman shall have mirth. After those nine months He, Who is sheathed within her flesh, would say: "I come not to bring peace, but the sword" (Matt. 10:34)

The Magnificat is the hymn of a mother with a Child Who is at once the "Ancient of Days" Like a great artist, who has finished a painting in a few months, Mary could say: "In how short a time, and yet it is my life," so the song sprang from Mary's lips, like a jet in a few seconds - and yet she was a lifetime in composing it.

She gathered up the soul melodies of her people - a song of David, a song above all which Hannah sang centuries before at the door of the tabernacle of Shiloh, when she brought her infant son Samuel, "to lend him to the Lord as long as He liveth." (1 Sam. 1:28) But Mary makes their words and her own refer not to the past, but to the future, when the Law of Fear will give way to the Law of Love, and when another life, another kingdom, will arise in a towering flight of sanctity and praise.

"My soul magnifies the Lord; My spirit has found joy in God, Who is my Saviour." The faces of women had been veiled for centuries, and the faces of men were veiled, too, in the sense that men hid themselves from God. But now that the veil of sin is lifted, the woman stands upright and looks at the face of God, to praise Him. When the Divine enters into the human, then the soul thinks less of asking than of loving Him. The lover seeks no favors from the beloved; Mary has no petitions, but only praise. As the soul becomes detached from things and is conscious of itself and of its destiny, it knows itself only in God. The egotist magnifies himself; but Mary magnifies the Lord. The carnal think first of body, and the mediocre think of God as an afterthought. In Mary nothing takes precedence over Him Who is God the Creator, the Lord of history, and the Saviour of mankind.

When our friends praise us for our deeds, we thank them for their kindness. When Elizabeth extols Mary, Mary glorifies her God. Mary receives praise as a mirror receives light: she stores it not, nor even acknowledges it, but makes it pass from her to God to Whom is due all praise, all honor and thanksgiving. The shortened form of this song is: "Thank God." Her whole personality is to be at the service of her God. Too often do men praise God with our tongues, while our hearts are far from Him. "Words go up, but thoughts remain below" - But it was the soul and spirit of Mary, and not her lips, which overflowed in words, because the secret of Love within had already burst its bonds.

Why magnify God, Who cannot become less by subtraction through our atheism, or greater by the addition of our praise? It is true not in Himself does God change stature through our recognition, any more than, because a simpleton mocks the beauty of a Raphael, the painting loses its beauty. But, in us, God is capable of increase and decrease as we are lovers or sinners. As our ego inflates, the need of God seems to be less; as our ego deflates, the need of God appears in its true hunger.

The love of God is reflected in the soul of the just, as the light of the sun is magnified by a mirror. So Mary's Son is the Sun; for she is the moon. She is the nest - He the Fledgling Who will fly to a higher Tree and will then call her home. She calls Him her Lord or Saviour. Even though she is preserved free from the stain of original sin, for it is due entirely to the merits of the Passion and Death of her Divine Son. In herself she is nothing, and she has nothing. He is everything! Because He has looked graciously upon the lowliness of His handmaid - Because He Who is Mighty, He whose name is Holy, has wrought these wonders for me.

The proud end in despair, and the last act of despair is suicide or the taking of one's life, which is no longer bearable. The humble are necessarily the joyful; for where there is no pride, there can be no self-centeredness, making joy impossible.

Mary's song has this double note; her spirit rejoices because God has looked down on her lowliness. A box that is filled with sand cannot be filled with gold; a soul that is bursting with its own ego can never be filled with God. There is no limit on God's part to His possession of a soul; it is the soul alone which can limit His welcome, as a window curtain limits the light. The more empty the soul is of self, the greater the room in it for God. The larger the emptiness of a nest, the bigger the bird that can be housed therein. There is an intrinsic relation between the humility of Mary and the Incarnation of the Son of God within. She whom the heavens could not contain now tabernacles the King of the Heavens, Itself. The Most High looks on the lowliness of His handmaid.

Mary's self-emptying, alone, would not have been enough, had not He Who is her God, her Lord and Saviour "humbled Himself." Though the cup be empty, it cannot hold the ocean. People are like sponges. As each sponge can hold only so much water and then reaches a point of saturation, so every person can hold only so much of honor. After the saturation point is reached, instead of the man's wearing the purple, the purple wears the man. It is always after the honor is accepted that the recipient moans in false humility: "Lord, I am not worthy."

But here, after the honor is received, Mary, instead of standing on her privilege, becomes a servant-nurse of her aged cousin and, in the midst of that service, sings a song in which she calls herself the Lord's handmaid or better still the bondwoman of God, a slave who is simply His property and one who has no personal will except His own. Selflessness is shown as the true self. "There was no room in the inn," because the inn was filled. There was room in the stable, because there were no egos there only an ox and an ass.

God looked over the world for an empty heart but not a lonely heart - a heart that was empty like a flute on which He might pipe a tune - not lonely like an empty abyss, which is filled by death. And the emptiest heart He could find was the heart of a Lady. Since there was no self there, He filled it with His very Self.