St. Luke offers a beautifully crafted narrative of the infancy of Jesus Christ in the first two chapters of his gospel. Mary concludes her visit to Elizabeth with a song of praise to God, who is “mighty and has done great things to me.” – her Magnificat.
After John the Baptist’s birth, his father Zechariah sings his praise to God. “Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel. He has come to his people and set them free.”–his Benedictus.
The Benedictus is the church’s daily morning prayer, ending the silence and darkness of night and welcoming a blessed day. “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.”
No matter what the day, the Dawn which is Jesus Christ brings God’s blessings to the world and guidance for our steps. Each morning we pray Zechariah’s song, the man who came slowly to belief.
Each evening we pray Mary’s “Magnificat” at evening prayer in thanksgiving for the blessings of the day. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.God has come to the help of his servant Israel, remembering his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” The promises of God remain and we rejoice in them with Mary and wait for their fulfillment to come.
Commentators on Luke’s gospel say that Luke probably uses Jewish Christian prayers, applying them to Zechariah and Mary. The New American Bible says: “ Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.”
Ancient prayers, the Magnificat and the Benedictus are attributed appropriately to Mary and Zechariah. They’re our prayers too. Daily prayers.
Let me not doubt your promises, your tender mercies, but let me rejoice in them as Mary and Zechariah did, and look for their fulfillment, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.