Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mary the Perfect Model of Humility

The following is an edited excerpt from some of Fr. Hardon's writings on the Eucharist. In this particular article he shows how Mary was humble because she carried God within and tries to show us that the way for us to acquire and receive this divine virtue is through the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ. Here it goes:

Mary practiced to an eminent degree the virtue of humility. At the Annunciation, she told the Angel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." In the Magnificat, she repeated the same term except she spoke of the lowliness of His handmaid to make sure nobody misunderstood what she meant by "handmaid." She told of how the Lord scatters the proud and exalts the lowly.
There are two kinds of exaltation: self-exaltation and divine exaltation. The greatest danger on earth is self-exaltation, because then we call down on ourselves the curse of God. But the condition for divine exaltation is lowly, Marian humility. She declared that the Lord fills the hungry (those who admit their emptiness) with good things. Hunger in the Bible means emptiness not only of the body, but a symbol of the admitted emptiness of everything. By ourselves, we are emptiness, a vacuum. But we must admit that we are a vacuum, or we shall not be filled by the goodness of God. We must admit and constantly confess our emptiness, which is another word for humility.
Mary declared how grateful she was that the Lord had done so much for Israel and His servant. Humility serves. Humility waits on others. Humility responds to the bidding of the one whom it serves. This is the mother of God, but only because she is also the lowly handmaid of the Lord. The more gifted a person, the more prone that person is to pride. Possession of anything naturally generates pride. And not only does possession generate pride, but the greater the possession the more pride it generates. Wealth of any kind inflates the human heart. The more a person has of physical or mental or moral or even spiritual riches, the harder it is for that person to be humble. How are we to be humble? How can we possess without being proud? Only through being in the presence of Jesus Christ.
We can consider the unspeakable humility of God not only in the Incarnation when He appeared as man, but also in remaining on earth in the Holy Eucharist. This is double humility: the humility of hiding His divinity as He did during His visible stay on earth and the divine humility in hiding even His humanity in the Holy Eucharist. He not only gives us the example of how humble we should be, but through Him, we receive the most fundamental grace we need in life: the grace of humility.
No matter what we possess, it tends to induce us to pride, and the more we have, the more tempted we are to be proud. But it's not just quantitative possession; it is qualitative possession that inclines to pride. And the highest possession we can have is sanctity. Dear God, how can I stay humble and grow in sanctity? This was the greatest temptation of the mystics. One does not possess the close union with God that saints like Catherine of Siena or Theresa of Avila or John of the Cross enjoyed without being tempted by pride. It's tempting to look down on "those lower mortals."
But Mary's humility is a paradox. The most gifted creature ever produced by the Creator was also the lowliest in her own eyes. That is the key to humility: seeing everything we are, everything we have, everything we hope to become, everything we hope to achieve or possess – seeing everything as a free, undeserved and totally gratuitous gift from God. But this is possible only by the grace with which the God who became man provides us. The same grace He provided Mary by His Real Presence with her, He provides by His Real Presence with us today. There's no more basic reason for the Real Presence on earth of Jesus Christ than to provide us with the humanly impossible grace of humility.