On the Magnificat

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

[pullquote]Lk. 1:51. He hath shewed strength with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.[/pullquote]

The arm enigmatically signifies the Word that was born of her: and by the proud, Mary means the wicked demons who with their prince fell through pride: and the Greek sages, who refused to receive the folly, as it seemed, of what was preached: and the Jews who would not believe, and were scattered for their unworthy imaginations about the Word of God. And by the mighty she means the Scribes and Pharisees, who sought the chief seats. It is nearer the sense, however, to refer it to the wicked demons: for these, when openly claiming mastery over the world, the Lord by His coining scattered, and transferred those whom they had made captive unto His own dominion. For those things all came to pass according to her prophecy, that

Lk. 1:52. He hath put down riders from their thrones, and exalted the humble.

Great used to he the haughtiness of these demons whom He scattered, and of the devil, and of the Greek sages, as I said, and of the Pharisees and Scribes. But He put them down, and exalted those who had humbled themselves under their mighty hand, “having given them authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy:” and made the plots against us of these haughty-minded beings of none effect. The Jews, moreover, once gloried in their empire, but were stripped of it for their unbelief; whereas the Gentiles. who were obscure and of no note, were for their faith’s sake exalted.

Lk. 1:53 He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

By the hungry, she means the human race: for, excepting the Jews only, they were pining with famine. The Jews, however, were enriched by the giving of the law, and by the teaching of the holy prophets. For “to them belonged the giving of the law, the adoption of sons, the worship, the promises.” But they became wanton with high feeding, and too elate at their dignity; and having refused to draw near humbly to the Incarnate One, they were sent empty away, carrying nothing with them, neither faith nor knowledge, nor the hope of blessings. For verily they became both outcasts from the earthly Jerusalem, and aliens from the glorious life that is to be revealed, because they received not the Prince of Life, but even crucified the Lord of Glory, and abandoned the fountain of living water, and set at nought the bread that came down from heaven. And for this reason there came upon them a famine severer than any other, and a thirst more bitter than every thirst: for it was not a famine of the material bread, nor a thirst of water, “but a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.” But the heathen, who were hungering and athirst, and with their soul wasted away with misery, were filled with spiritual blessings, because they received the Lord. For the privileges of the Jews passed over unto them.

Lk. 1:54. He hath taken hold of Israel His child to remember mercy.

He hath taken hold of Israel,—-not of the Israel according to the flesh, and who prides himself on the bare name, but of him who is so after the Spirit, and according to the true meaning of the appellation;—-even such as look unto God, and believe in Him, and obtain through the Son the adoption of sons, according to the Word that was spoken, and the promise made to the prophets and patriarchs of old. It has, however, a true application also to the carnal Israel; for many thousands and ten thousands of them believed. “But He has remembered His mercy as He promised to Abraham:” and has accomplished what He spake unto him, that “in thy seed shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.” For this promise was now in the act of fulfilment by the impending birth of our common Saviour Christ, Who is that seed of Abraham, in Whom the Gentiles are blessed. “For He took on Him the seed of Abraham,” according to the Apostle’s words: and so fulfilled the promise made unto the fathers. (Commentary on Luke: Miscellaneous Fragments on Luke Chap. 1)