Luther and the Magnificat

Giancarlo Pani SJ

 Giancarlo Pani SJ / Church Thought / Published Date:14 October 2017/Last Updated Date:16 February 2021

In a recent biography of Luther, historian Heinz Schilling describes the devotion of the reformer to Mary the Mother of Jesus and his theological sensitivity to Marian themes that would later be neglected by his followers. Among the works finished in 1521, Schilling describes Luther’s commentary on the canticle of Mary: “He then completed his interpretation of the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55, the song of praise by the Mother of God that lay very close to his heart. While his successors would no longer hold Mary in such high regard, the reformer saw in Mary the epitome of the human being freely chosen through the grace of God, not in response to what she had done, but as a ‘lowly maid.’ Mary was the original biblical model of Protestant election through grace.”[1]

It is well known that Protestants do not generally pray to or venerate the Mother of God, yet Luther wrote a commentary on the Magnificat and it is one of his masterpieces.

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