Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
In the Magnificat,
Our Lady Recognizes God as Author of Her Excellency
Saint of the Day, Wednesday, November 9, 1968
After receiving the splendid communication that She would be the Mother of the Savior, her visit with Saint Elizabeth, and all the episodes you know, at the height of all these gifts, Our Lady sang the Magnificat.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
Our Lady recognizes God as the author of her excellence
Here is the Magnificat’s fundamental thought. God has done extraordinary things in me, says Our Lady, but these things are His work and not mine. I am not the author of the greatness He has put in me. He saw it fit to place in me, and I have accepted it. Therefore, this greatness dwells in me and has become mine, but I am not its cause; it comes from the outside. I am only a lowly creature.
In the Magnificat, Our Lady does not once call herself a sinner because She was conceived without sin and never sinned. She corresponded to grace as perfectly as possible throughout her life. At any rate, She was a mere creature, and that greatness could not come from her nature but from God Our Lord.
That is the position we must take a fortiori toward the graces God gives us. We are sinners in two ways: first, because we were conceived in original sin; secondly, because the sins committed in our life made our situation much worse. And although being in the state of grace, we carry the burden of the sins once committed.
On the other hand, the honors bestowed on us are incomparably lesser than those Our Lady had. For all these reasons, we must be all the more unpretentious.
Here, the unpretentious thought par excellence is: This greatness did not come from my nature but was given by God. That is its fundamental thinking.
Pretentiousness is to attribute to oneself what belongs to God
A pretentious person thinks the opposite. Whether he is an introvert or an extrovert swagger, he thinks:
“I have such a thing in my nature. This good thing I have is connatural and substantially identical with me; somehow, I am that.”
For example, let us say that a man is a pretentious almsgiver. He looks at himself with enchantment and says: “How wonderful is my detachment opening my wallet and giving money to that beggar. How good I am! Tenderness ran through my whole soul facing that person’s misery. How pleased I must smile and be enchanted at myself because of that.”
What does Catholic Doctrine say about this? It says: Except for grace, anyone, even a bad person, can have some or many qualities. For example, Our Lord said to the Jews that one should pray and confide in God and ask Him all things that He would grant them.
He said: “If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?” (Mt 7:11). Meaning “you are good parents,” which is a characteristic of the Jewish people. Yet, being “good parents” did not prevent them from being evil.
A person in the state of mortal sin can have certain qualities that are or can be natural. But having these qualities does not prevent a person from being bad and dying and going to hell with them. It is a mistake to think that a man only goes to hell when he has no qualities. He goes to hell if he dies in the state of mortal sin, whether or not he has qualities.
Why? Because they are called qualities only analogically. Quality, properly speaking, is for an individual to observe all the commandments and be in the state of grace. And, without grace, that is impossible to fallen human nature.
In other words, by our fallen nature, we do not keep ourselves in the state of grace and therefore are bad even though we may have several qualities.
We are bad because of our fallen nature. The ability to be in the state of grace, called free will, comes from grace and gives value to our qualities, including natural ones. That is why it is called the state of grace, and grace comes to us from God.
Ultimately, the virtue of giving alms comes to us from grace insofar as it is authentic and deserves genuine admiration and consideration. Therefore, grace gives us all the good we have, which becomes an inherent quality when we accept it. But it is not an innate quality; it is given and placed in us from the outside and becomes inherent when we accept it.
The unpretentious person knows it and does not become intoxicated with pretentiousness. Because what characterizes a pretentious person’s intoxication is the delight of attributing that to himself.
There is true merit in attributing any quality to God, recognizing He placed it and accepting it. After all, had God not given them to us, we would never get there!
A pretentious person takes delight in himself as if his qualities were inherent, intrinsic to his nature, independently of outside help. Here is the problem of pretentiousness. And here you have the Magnificat.
We must joyfully acknowledge God as the author of the qualities He gives us.
Our Lady attributes her greatness to God:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.
What does it mean to “proclaim the greatness of the Lord”? To lovingly see, admire, love, sing and proclaim His greatness. The word Lord already has a lot of that connotation. So, my soul magnifies the Lord.
And my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.
Why does her spirit rejoice in God? She gives the reason:
For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day, all generations will call me blessed.
Why am I happy with God? Why do I proclaim His greatness? Because He laid eyes on me, says Our Lady. He has given me such greatness that all nations will call me blessed. But I happily recognize that it comes from Him and rejoice that it does.
My spirit attains the height of joy when declaring that it comes from Him and not from me. As you can see, this is perfect unpretentiousness. It is far from this state of mind: “Oh my God, what a pity, how I would like to say that everything comes from me” – then, making a painful act of honesty – “but I declare that it did not!” Instead, She says: My spirit rejoices in declaring that it came from Him and not from me.
At the same time, She proclaims the glory God has given her.
All generations will call me blessed.
The word blessed has a hue that means not just a very happy person but one whose life has worked out, who did the right thing, and it all worked. Therefore, to succeed is for a person to remain holy and serve God – and that is also why the person is happy.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
Here the word Almighty implies there are wonders such that only an omnipotent Being could work. Mary knew herself to be nonomnipotent and thus proclaimed that God alone could have made her.
It is an indirect way of saying, “what has been done for me is so much that I, a mere slave, could never do it. He made wonders and greatness that only an omnipotent Being could. She continuously attributes her greatness to Him.
The Almighty, whose Name is holy,
He is so Holy that even His Name is Holy, meaning He is holiness itself. A human being can be holy. Our Lady had exalted and most perfect holiness but was not holiness; God alone is holiness.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
What a beautiful idea: The mercy of which I have been the object is the pinnacle of a vast series of mercies God extends from the beginning to the end of the world on those who fear Him.
If I dare say so, it is like the Himalayas of mercy, the topmost point among a world of little mercy mounds and hills that existed throughout history. As if to say: “This mercy is even more beautiful because it is the face, the central point of an immense number of excellent mercies. He is God, the King and Father of all mercies.”
He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
The proud are those who neither love nor fear God. Pride is the cause of decay
While displaying His mercy to those who fear Him, God shows the power of His arm by frustrating the plans of the proud. The proud are those who do not fear God. A proud person is precisely proud visavis God. He neither considers God’s greatness nor fears Him and hence does not love Him.
There is no mercy for these. God humbles them and proves the power of His arm. When men are powerful and think their greatness comes from themselves, God breaks them while showing mercy to those who fear Him.
He shows the power of His arm by raising those who fear Him and breaking those who claim to be independent and refuse to attribute all greatness to Him. Here is a beautiful invitation for us to make a philosophy or theology of history.
The philosophy or theology of history consists of accompanying historical events and our daily life, the life of the Group, and seeing the confirmation of this rule.
Those who really and deeply understand they are nothing, who do not enjoy what they are or attribute everything to themselves but rejoice in attributing their virtues to God and Our Lady’s intercession, are those who fear God and progress in the spiritual life.
Conversely, those inclined to worship themselves and consider that everything they have comes from them are the proud that do not fear God and whom He breaks.
Seeing decadence in the Group, we often look for its cause and find out it is pretentiousness. At a certain point, the person became enraptured with himself and began saying:
“How wonderful I am, how great I am, how stupendous is my person considered in the moral predicates proper to its nature.” His decadence begins.
The ability to use our intellect comes from grace; do not become enraptured with it.
Our Lady states the principle: proud people do not make progress. Those who are humble and attribute everything to her ascend—the same with our nonmoral gifts, intelligence, and other aptitudes.
To consider only one side of the question, Our Godgiven intelligence and other aptitudes are good to the extent they serve to do good. If they serve to do evil, one goes even deeper into hell.
How can we use them to do good except through grace? We cannot be enchanted with our intelligence unless we use it to do good, but the ability to do so comes only from the grace of God. So everything places us before God in a humble, unpretentious posture.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.
Here you see who are mighty and who are humble. Through the entire sequence of the thought, we can see the powerful are those who think they have power and attribute it to themselves. They dispense with God and do not fear Him, assuming they do everything without God.
For example, a person who is a naturalist in his apostolate is among the mighty ones who imagine they have power.
The humble is the one who understands that the apostolate, as Dom Chautard says in The Soul of the Apostolate, is a grace that comes from the interior life, prayer, etc.
What does ‘deposed the mighty one from his throne’ mean? He is stripped of what he is proud. The humble person is glorified by obtaining results in his apostolate, interior life, actions, etc.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
It is the same thought; the needy are those who ask. He fills them with goods. Those who approach God, saying they do not need anything, are the rich whom He sends away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
God had mercifully promised that the Word would become incarnate and that the Messiah would be born of the people of Israel. God remembered and exalted Israel with the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
To fulfill the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham, and his children forever.
The promise of the Messias.
The Church very beautifully completes this with the “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be forever and ever. Amen.” It ends up singing the glory of the Eternal Father.
Here is an interpretation of the Magnificat as the song of Our Lady’s joyful unpretentiousness.
That [golden] boy’s attitude before the Queen of England had so much of the Magnificat that he could say: “My soul magnifies the queen, and my spirit rejoices in her one who takes me out of my banality.” That would be an excellent paraphrase—our rapture for everything somehow leads us to God.
Applying the Magnificat to the Holy Catholic Church
I wish we could sing the Magnificat with all our souls to praise the Catholic Church!
How true it is to say: Magnificat anima meam Ecclesiam, et exaltavit spiritus meum, in mater salutari meae.
My soul magnifies the Catholic Church, and my spirit rejoices in my Mother, the Church, etc. What a beautiful paraphrase we could make for the Church, which is both the Ark of the Covenant and God visible on Earth. It is the image of Our Lady on Earth.
May these words serve us to continually attribute all the good existing in the Group to God, Jesus Christ through Our Lady, and the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The only good thing about the Group is being a grain of sand and a living cell within the Catholic Church. Because only the things that belong to the Catholic Church are good, and whatever breaks away from the Catholic Church is entirely bad.
We must give the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church all our enchantment, enthusiasm, dedication, fidelity, life, blood, and soul.
We must love her more every time we see her more denied, defiled, and betrayed. Never has the Church been so humiliated as she is now. But, in her extreme humiliation, it is quite true that the Church is loved with a proportionate love, and her children’s love reaches a zenith at the very moment when her humiliation is at its height.
This paraphrase and adaptation of the Magnificat is our act of humility, in faith, to the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, whom I would almost be tempted to call “our divine Mother” as she belongs to God and has something divine about her.