"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Magnificat: A Mother's Song and Dance

The Visitation (c 1767, Oil on canvas, 137 x 101 cm, Private collection) by Gandolfi Ubaldo (1728–1781). He was an Italian painter of the late-Baroque period.

n the Old Testament, Hannah was a second wife besides Peninnah. The story of Hannah is one of victory. She is fighting for her fertility with all her heart, soul and might. She is so desperate in conceiving a child, because although she is the favorite wife, she does not have a son. Worst, Peninnah, her rival, would torment and bully her, because the LORD had kept her childless for nineteen years. This went on year after year every time they would go to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the LORD. Hannah can only cry and would even stop eating in response. She seems to be losing the battle. But she persevered until the very end with her two secret weapons, these are, prayer and deep faith. In 1 Samuel 1:10-11, we read: “She wept bitterly. And Hannah vowed a vow. God, if you will look and see the affliction of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the Lord…” While Hannah was praying at great length there was a priest named Eli who was seated in the chair near the door-post of the Lord’s temple. Hannah caught Eli’s eye who mistook her as a drunkard and a psychotic. Her lips were moving without words. In the Hebrew text, it is described as if she was eating her own prayer or tasting the taste of prayer. Eli approached and scolded her in the temple, saying “How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up from your wine! ” Poor Hannah raised her eyes tired from too much weeping and turned to Eli and said, “No, you are mistaken. I am not drunk. I am just an unhappy woman having drunk neither wine nor liquor. I am just pouring out my troubles to the Lord.” Eli, realizing his mistake, uttered the following words of blessing upon her, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” After that, she conceived and bore a son and she named him Samuel which derives from a Hebrew phrase meaning “God has heard.”

Today's reading highlights the second meeting of Hannah and the priest, this time bringing a three-year-old son who is the answer of God to her prayers. She utters these words to Eli, “Pardon, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.” Hannah left the boy in the Temple. Samuel grew up to be a prophet who would anoint the significant kings, King Saul—the founder of the monarchy, and King David—the founder of the dynasty which our Lord Jesus would be born into. Samuel is a great prophet who serves as a bridge between the patriarchs, judges and the kings.

For my second point, why is Hannah's story being paired with Mary's Magnificat where she expresses her joy and gratitude to the Lord for the gift of his Son to her. The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1–10) is similar to the Magnificat and Psalm 113. The Rabbis learned many important halakhot (Hebrew: “the Ways”) of prayer from Hannah’s entreaty at Shiloh. Her way of prayer became a model of prayer that God answers—praying like savoring a tasty food—silently chewing the words in her mouth, concentrating deeply. It was so fervent that an old priest accused her of drunkenness. There is a wonderful connection with Mary because the same thing happens to Mary and all of us who ponder the Scriptures, like Mary, would be able to witness that. There is this Old Testament Greek word that is only found in the Psalms, ἀγαλλίασις (ag-al-lee’-as-is). It is translated as exceeding gladness, exuberant joy. Because of such exceeding emotion, the person who rejoices could not help but leap for joy. In the New Testament, we come across this word in Mary’s song—the Magnificat. She bursts with exceeding joy. The Magnificat is a song and dance moment and anyone who would not recognize Mary would think she is drunk while singing and dancing in prayer. There is another instance where ἀγαλλίασις is used—when the fetus John the Baptist leaps or jumps for joy inside the womb of his mother Elizabeth. This joy is contagious for it makes others jump or dance too. The fetus could not have understood things, not yet, but it becomes the mirror of its own mother’s exuberant joy which is reflecting and resounding it.

St Luke's Gospel has given us Hannah and Mary, no doubt, as the models of prayer that God answers. In Luke, during Jesus's presentation in the Temple, another woman who is much older and a widow but with the same name is present to witness to the Lord. St Luke describes Hannah or Anna as a prophet who worships night and day and many times, perhaps, with tears like her namesake. Much later in Jewish history the model of entreating God exemplified by the two Hannahs and by Mary would become the new way of offering to God in place of an animal sacrifice ritual.

For my third and final point, how can we follow these women's ways of prayer? This is where Mary could teach us. We probably have become too familiar with the life of Mary but our focus is often just tied to the tip of the iceberg so to speak. So much about Mary is hidden from one's view and it is a gold mine that is waiting for us to discover, i.e., she had to grow into her role as mother to Jesus and wife to Joseph. Many of us miss out on a lot of the hidden ‘here and now’ moments that she went through from birth until her last breath on earth. Her life was filled with decisions she had to make day by day, faithfully and lovingly. She was an ordinary person who had to deal with doses of normal life struggles and their immediate implications. Twice in identical words, Luke's gospel points to the here and now of Mary as she “kept the words in her heart” (Lk 2:19; Lk 2:51). Mary, in a very unique way, pondered an entirely new face of God being revealed consistently through her own son Jesus. Of all human beings, only Mary had the privilege of watching Jesus grow “in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2:52; 2:40) in the daily here and now. Amen Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. Thank you so much for your wonderful and in depth sharing about three women of prayer and enduring faith. Each new insight you shared the more I appreciate and love our beloved mother who will always accompanies us in our daily struggles. I hope and pray that I may follow their footsteps. Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas, Fr. Jom!

    1. Thank you for your sharing! Merry Christmas and a grace-filled New Year! GBU! 😇

  2. Merry Christmas po, Fr. Jom!

    1. Merry Christmas and a grace-filled New Year! GBU! 😇


Post a Comment

Thank you for your interest in the above post. When you make a comment, I would personally read it first before it gets published with my response.