St. Mary - A Life of Humility
Humility is the amazing and beautiful robe, which our Lord put on; through it, He manifested Himself to us. It was not possible for earthly people to see the Lord of lords and God of gods in the glory of His divinity, but only through humility.
In the past, He said to His elect prophet, "You cannot see My face; for no man can see Me, and live." (Exodus 33:20) When He descended with His glory on Mount Sinai in the past, the mountain was blazing in a fiery smoke; it was the case that, "Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow, whether man or beast." (Exodus 19:12, 13) So terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling." (Heb.12:18-21)
In the New Testament, God incarnate and became man through His dwelling in St. Mary's womb. She carried Him by her hands, and He ate and drank with man. Moreover, He offered Himself to us as food, indeed, so that we would abide in Him and He in us.
Sts. Augustine and Eronimos noted that the Lord Jesus started His sermon on the mount by talking about humility saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit [the humble]." (Matt. 5:3) Thus, He started His ministry with the subject of humility and continued in it all His life to His death.
The first sin, which resulted in the fall of our race was the sin of pride; and no wonder we see God addresses it with the virtue of humility.
St. Mary and Her Life of Humility
Throughout her life, St. Mary was known for her many virtues, especially the virtue of humility. Her humility was the key virtue that won her favor with God such that He chose her to be His mother. She declared this herself in her famous praise, "For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant." (Lk. 1:48)
H.H. Pope Shenouda III is saying about her humility, "When God wanted to chose a girl to dwell in her womb, He chose one full of humility, so that she would be able to receive the glory and honor rightly due her, while keeping the appropriate balance because of her humility."
St. Mary was such a humble person that she was not affected by the honor, visions and revelations she received. In contrast, St. Paul received from the Lord a "thorn in the flesh" to protect him from pride and exaltation, "And lest I be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me … lest I be exalted above measure." (2 Cor. 12:7)
Illustrations of Her Humility
- Her humility was clear during the annunciation. While the archangel spoke to her with reverance and declared the great and marvelous work of God who will incarnate from her, she said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord." (Lk. 1: 26-38)
- After that, she did not think about herself as the mother of God seeking honor, respect and glory. Instead, as a maidservant, she thought of Elizabeth who was in need of help. Thus, St. Mary went into the hill country quickly and served her for almost three months. Elizabeth recognized the great honor bestowed upon her and remarked about Mary's humility, "But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk. 1:43) When Mary heard these words, she redirected the glory and honor to God in her famous praise, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior … for He who is mighty has done great things for me." (Lk 1: 46, 47, 49)
- When she gave birth to Jesus in a lowly manger, an environment not commensurate to the mother of God, she accepted it in complete submission and humility without protest.
- Forty days after of giving birth, she entered the temple and with complete humility, although she is the example of purity and virginity, she offered a sacrifice for her purification according to the law of Moses. (Lev. 10:8) She offered a pair of turtle doves which was the offering of the poor. She did not complain from her poverty nor was she ashamed of it and try to show herself rich before people.
- Although Jesus was her son and not Joseph's, she introduced him before herself as if he was the greater. This happened at the temple when she said to Jesus, "Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." (Lk. 2:48)
- At the wedding of Cana, she didn't try to attract attention to herself nor to the power of her intercession, but she played her role and fled away from any glorification, honor or even respect and gratitude. In general, she is an excellent model for humility and self-denial that won her favor before God to be the mother of God.
The Greatness of the Virtue of Humility
St. Pachomious, the founder of Coenobitic monasticism, said, "Seeing somebody through the eyes of a humble and pure heart is better than any vision, because through him, you see God the unseen."
Once, a monk said to St. Timothy the Hermit, "I find that my mind is always with God." The saint replied, "Better still is to see yourself below all creation as there is no fall from humility."
Once St. Macarius the Great was asked, "Which is the greatest virtue?" He replied, "If pride is considered the worst of all vices, to the extent that it cast a host of angels out of heaven, no doubt humility is the greatest of all virtues, because it is able to elevate the humble, even if he is a sinner."
What Does Humility Do?
- Humility takes man back to his original state.
- Though humility man can defeat the devils.
- Humility preserves God's grace in man.
- God exalts the humble. (1 Pet. 5:5, 6)
- Humility manifests God's mysteries and qualifies us for His gifts. (Ps. 25:14)
- Humility aids and rescues us in times of trouble. (2 Cor. 7:6 ; Ps. 116:6)
- Humility keeps at bay God's wrath and answers prayers. (2 Chron. 32:26; 2 Chron. 33:12; Job 42: 2-6, 9-12)
How Do We Obtain Humility?
- Perpetually observing the humility of our Savior. (Matt. 11:29)
- Knowing one's self through: (a) meditating on one's true self; (b) meditating on one's sins; (c) meditating on one's changing self.
- Avoid boasting on spiritual gifts. (Phil. 2:13; 2 Cor. 3:5)
- Do not pretend to do a deed that others will observe and praise you for. (Matt. 6:1)
- Rejoice in insults and despising.
- Do not justify yourself for the wrongs you do. (Ps. 141:4)
- Flee from the praise of others and give thanks to God who helped you in your good deeds. Do not utter in front of others that which make them praise you.
- Esteem all others better than yourself. (Phil. 2:3)
- Do not choose the best places. (Matt. 23:6)