Ark of the Covenant – Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVI

 

The Humility of the Blessed Virgin

 

“I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys” [Cant. 2:1]

 

Humility is the foundation of all virtues, and without it no one can please God.  Pride destroys every merit and puts an end to all growth in holiness.  The moment the creature exalts himself through consciousness of the divine gifts, he places himself in an attitude of rebellion.  As the Blessed Virgin was the holiest of all creatures, so she was of necessity the most humble.  In her, self-love was entirely extinct, and God was the only object of every action.  As the Incarnation was the great act of the divine condescension, so the Mother partook of the humility of her Child.  The same mind was in her that was in her Son.  He was meek and lowly of heart, she was the while lily of the valley, the companion of the humility in which He was pleased to dwell.  With all her gifts Mary had always a lowly opinion of herself.  She was not unconscious of what God had done for her, but she recognized that the favors she had received were all for the glory of the giver.  She was only the handmaid of the Lord, and every new gift He gave her, only increased her debt.  It did not stimulate any self-complacency.  Rather she was the more abased at the sight of her own littleness, and she thought herself unworthy of any favor.  Enveloped as she was with the wonderful displays of divine power, in all she saw only the love and mercy of her Creator.  “He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid.”  “He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name.”  “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and hath exalted the humble.”  She was too lowly in spirit to think she was to become the Mother of God, although she might have learned it from the wonderful providences which surrounded her.  The message of the archangel startled her because she was too humble to dream of such a dignity, and she trembled when Gabriel bent the knee before her, and called her “full of grace.”  And when Jesus lay in her arms, and she clasped her God to her bosom, her joy left the creature far out of sight to rest alone in the beauty of the Creator manifest in the flesh.  But though she was conscious of her gifts, she was not conscious of her merits.  She set no value no what she did, and she ascribed all her graces to the undeserved love of God, rather than to her own good works.  She never thought that her virtues had drawn the eternal Word to her, or that her great reward in Heaven was to be the recompense of her fidelity.  And she was ever disposed to conceal from others the great favors God had bestowed upon her.  When St. Elizabeth called her blessed above all women, and by the impulse of the Holy Ghost gave her praise for the faith she had shown, she simple replied, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”  When St. Joseph was permitted to doubt of her integrity, she had no words of defense for herself, but left it for God to tech him the mystery of the Incarnation.  She never prided herself on her dignity, or before others exacted any of her maternal privileges.  She loved the obscurity of her home in Nazareth, where the world knew nothing of her joys, and where St. Joseph and her Son were accounted as laborers.  She went to the temple as the law commanded, and made an offering for her purification, when she had never known sin.  She appeared before the altar as any ordinary woman, leaving it for God to make known her dignity, if He should see fit, or to leave the world in ignorance of her privileges.  And although she was the Mother of the Highest, excelling in rank the most glorious archangel, yet the lowliest duties were her delight.  She went a long journey to serve her cousin Elizabeth, and remained with her three months.  Nothing pleased her more than to minister to others.  She became the Mother of the disciples of our Lord, and after His resurrection remained on earth to direct and assist the apostles in the foundation of the Church.  No one ever came near her, that she did not seek to do them some kindness.  It is so now, when she is in Heaven, and it will be so throughout eternity.  The love of contempt was also a crowning feature in her humility.  The poverty of Bethlehem was dear to her.  It shut her in a cave, with her Child, away from the world.  When men despised Him, it wounded her in her tenderest point, but for herself she had no care.  In the day of triumph she was not seen.  She was not present when the multitude came to take Him by force and make Him a king.  When He rode into Jerusalem with the palm-branches waving before Him, and the shout of hosannas rending the air, the Mother did not mingle in the general joy.  But when the mob were dragging Him in His own blood through the streets, she went out to partake of His cup of ignominy.  She stood to the last by the cross, heedless alike of the scorn of her won nation, or the rough jeer of the infidel.  In sorrow, contempt, poverty, she was ever at His side, because she loved to be nothing among mankind, since God was everything to her, and the creature nothing.  And her course of self-abnegation still continues.  She has never vindicated her own honors, except when they concerned the honor of her Son.  She has been established in Sion, and has taken root in God’s holy mountain, and her throne is in the full assembly of saints.  Yet she has never asked for any privilege, but to defend with her own person the rights of her Child.  She was all for Jesus, without a thought of herself.  Such a wonderful degree of humility became the Mother of God, and we her children praise the divine wisdom which has given us such a model.  Pride is the root of all our evils, and the cause of our many imperfections.  We are not only conscious of our gifts, but we even imagine favors which do not belong to us.  Scarcely ever do we have a true idea of ourselves.  When we sin or wound our Lord by infidelity, we have a ready excuse.  When we do any good work, we are quick enough to ascribe it to our own virtues.  We fear much that others will tale too low an estimate of our merits, and are quite often anxious to make known every advance we make in the way of self-mastery.  We cannot easily condescend to do kind offices for others, except when some praise will be our reward.  And as for the love of contempt, it is far above ordinary Christians, and has the appearance of fanaticism in those who profess it.  It is easy to see that self lies at the bottom of many of our best and holiest actions.  Yet with the sincere confession of our weakness, let us not be discouraged.  God became incarnate to cure our pride.  Mary was the most humble of creatures to be our model.  Let us follow in her footsteps.  We have had experience enough to convince us that in our own strength we can do nothing.  Let us never think of any strength but God’s.  His arm will be under us if we look to Him alone.  And if we really desire conformity with Christ, the heavenly Physician will know how to minister to our maladies.  He will lead us by paths we could not have conjectured to the valley of self-abnegation, and there teach us to cast off our whole load of sin.  Humility, then, will not be unreal in us, nor hypocritical.  It will spring from the thorough conviction of the all-sufficiency of God, and the utter nothingness of all created things.  Happy are they who learn this lesson.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” and, “if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with Him.”

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