Ave Maria Meditations
Our Lady teaches us the way of humility. This virtue should not be thought of as an essentially negative sense, even though it does involve a denial of one’s pride, a tempering of our ambition and the extinction of our egotism and vanity. Our Lady did not experience any of these temptations and yet was blessed with the highest degree of humility.
If we examine the word humility we find it to be derived from the Latin humus, which means earth, soil, or dirt. Humility signifies a recognition of our human origin in the dust of which Adam was made. The virtue of humility, therefore, consists in the living out of a realistic appraisal of our comparative insignificance as creatures who are totally dependent on God. Humility,by inclining us towards the earth, recognizes our littleness, our poverty, and in its way glorifies the majesty of God. The interior soul experiences a holy joy in annihilating itself, as it were, before God to recognize practically that He alone is great and that, in comparison with His, all human greatness is empty of truth like a lie. This self-abnegation in no way impoverishes the soul. It does not limit the legitimate aspirations of the creature. On the contrary, this virtue works to ennoble the soul, giving it wings on which to explore wider horizons.
At the very moment when God chose Our Lady to be his Mother she proclaimed herself to be his handmaiden. When Mary hears those words of praise from Elizabeth, Blessed art thou amongst women, she is actually beginning a time where she will put herself at the service of her cousin. Even though she is full of grace, Mary keeps the secret to herself. Not even Joseph is told of the mystery. Mary leaves it to divine providence to find the opportune moment to enlighten him. She sings, for joy, of her wondrous blessings. She gives all the glory to God. For her part, she offers up her littleness and her entire consent. She knew nothing of her own dignity. Because of this, in her own eyes, she had not the slightest importance. She never depended on herself; she depended entirely on God, on his will. Thus she was able to judge the extent of her own lowliness, and to understand her own helpless, but, nevertheless, secure condition as a creature: feeling herself incapable of anything and sustained only by the goodness of God.
As a result of this selflessness she surrendered herself completely to God and lived solely for him Mary never sought her own glory, never longed for the best seat at banquets. She never looked for praise on account of her divine Motherhood. She lived solely for-the glory of God.
Humility is grounded in the truth, in reality. It is based on the certitude that creature and Creator are separated by an infinite distance. Once it recognizes how God crosses that gulf for the sake of his beloved creatures, the soul grows in humility and gratitude. The more it is elevated before God, the more does the soul understand and appreciate the vastness of this distance. That is why the Virgin was so humble. The Handmaid of the Lord is the Queen of the Universe. She is the fulfillment of those words of Jesus at the close of today’s parable: He who humbles himself shall be exalted. The humble person will hear the invitation of the Lord: Friend, go up higher. Let us learn how to put ourselves at the service of God without condition. Then we will be elevated to undeserved but incredible heights. We shall be participating in the intimate life of God. We shall be ‘like Gods’! Yet our progress will have been along the way of humility and docility to the will of God
Fruits of humility
Humility leads us to discover that everything we have that is good comes from God, both in the order of nature and in the order of grace… The humble soul rests in the hands of God and is filled with joy and thanksgiving as a result. The saints have been magnanimous people; they have undertaken impressive tasks for God’s glory. The humble person is daring because he counts upon the grace of Almighty God. He prays all the time because he is convinced of his radical dependence on God. He lives in constant gratitude for this help. Inasmuch as humility is the foundation for all the virtues, it is especially the foundation for the virtue of charity. To the extent that we forget about ourselves we will be concerned with the welfare of others. St Francis de Sales has written: Humility and charity are the principal virtues. Conversely, pride is the mother and root of every sin, including mortal sin. Pride is the greatest single obstacle to the action of divine grace.
Pride and sadness often walk hand-in-hand. Joy is part of the patrimony of the humble soul. Let us turn our eyes towards Mary. No creature ever surrendered herself to the plans of God more humbly than she. The humility of the ‘ancilla Domini’, the handmaid of the Lord, is the reason we invoke her as the cause of our joy. After Eve had sinned through her foolish desire to be equal to God, she hid herself from the Lord and was ashamed: she was sad. Mary, in confessing herself the handmaid of the Lord, becomes the Mother of the divine Word, and is filled with joy. May the rejoicing that is hers, the joy of our good Mother, spread to all of us, so that with it we may go out to greet her, our Holy Mother Mary, and thus become more like Christ, her Son.
Fr. Francis Fernandez