All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed

Magnanimity is the virtue by which the great-souled man “tends to the greatest things,” in accordance with his natural and supernatural gifts.

Magnanimity is incompatible with presumption, which attempts the impossible; ambition, which seeks recognition without merit; and vainglory, which ambitiously grasps for the highest honors.

Magnanimity is perfectly compatible with humility, since both virtues (indeed, all virtues) are rooted in truth.

Humility makes us think little of ourselves in comparison to God, and much of others insofar as God has blessed them. Magnanimity makes us tend to the greatest virtues when God calls to do so, and causes us to “despise others”—that is, not to emulate them—insofar as they have fallen away from God’s gifts.

The contrary of magnanimity is not an excess but a deficiency. By shrinking from the great things God has destined for him, the pusillanimous man is driven by fear or a proud attachment to his own opinion, refusing to follow the promptings of courage and gratitude.

The greatest expression of magnanimity comes to us from that soul who, after our Lord, was blessed with the greatest virtues. In her Magnificat (Lk. 1:46-55), Mary reveals the nature of that happiness Christ desires each of us to enjoy.

Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. Because she recognizes that all greatness comes from the Almighty, she embraces the divine will unreservedly as God’s humble handmaid.

Mary’s perfect humility enables God to accomplish his will in her most completely. Through her, he scatters the proud and puts down the mighty, while exalting the humble and filling the hungry with good things. In her, he fulfills the promises made “to Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Many great composers have employed their gifts to bring the Magnificat to life musically. Consider for example the following verses:

Exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo. Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ: ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes, quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: et sanctum nomen ejus!

My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name.

luke 1:47-49

In this version by Antonio Vivaldi, the joyous relay of soprano, alto, and tenor is punctuated by a triumphant choral echo of “omnes generationes” (all generations)!

In J. S. Bach’s rendering, the sequence begins with an exultant soprano, continues with a meditative air on humility, and ends with two choral confirmations.

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