Our Lady of Humility

Saturday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 30:19-21,23-26  +  Matthew 9:35—10:1,5a,6-8
December 5, 2015

“The light of the moon will be like that of the sun….”

Everything that Mary is, she is because the Lord willed it so.  This is not to say that Mary was controlled or manipulated by the Lord.  Among the glories of Mary’s beauty, none is more beautiful than her will, united so completely with the Father’s Providential Will.  The Prophet Isaiah foretells this union of her human will with the Father’s divine will in today’s First Reading.  He prophesies:  “The light of the moon will be like that of the sun / and the light of the sun will be seven times greater / like the light of seven days.”

How did this union come to be?  Certainly it came to be by means of God’s grace, beginning with the gift of her Immaculate Conception.  But Mary as a human person effected this union, through her humble will.[1]  If Mary had effected the union of her will with the Father’s through the strength of her immaculate soul, you and I as sinners might despair of following Mary as her children.   But Mary, as a loving Mother, descends to our level by means of humility, picking us up and cradling us in her arms.

In his reflections on humility in the Summa Theologiae, Saint Thomas Aquinas considers the merits of distinguishing humility in contrasting ways.  He explores Saint Anselm’s articulation of seven degrees of humility.  Thomas also explores the twelve degrees of humility set down in the Rule of Saint Benedict.  We might at some point want to meditate upon these contrasting divisions of humility.

But on this First Saturday of December—also the First Saturday of Advent—we turn to Our Lady and honor her.  We turn to her as our Mother, who leads us closer to her Son as we learn more about Mary’s life, her ways, her thoughts and her prayers.  Through all of these run the virtue of humility.  We might spend the whole of our lives pondering Mary’s humility and striving to effect it within our own lives.

This morning as we honor Mary, reflect on an even simpler, three-fold division of humility that St. Thomas also discusses in the same article on humility.  Because it is so simple, it is a good place to start reflecting on the virtue of humility.  Certainly in each of these three stages we can hear echoes of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s life.  Thomas draws upon a gloss on a verse from the Gospel according to Matthew.  The gloss states:

“Perfect humility has three degrees.  The first is to subject ourselves to those who are above us, and not to set ourselves above our equals:  this is sufficient.  The second is to submit to our equals, and not to set ourselves before our inferiors; this is called abundant humility.  The third degree is to subject ourselves to inferiors, and in this is perfect righteousness.”[2]

In this description we hear of Mary’s life, and of our own call as her children.  The glories of Mary, she wishes to share with us.  These glories Blessed John Henry Newman wrote of when he rhetorically asked:  “If the Creator comes on earth in the form of a servant and a creature, why may not His Mother, on the other hand, rise to be the Queen of heaven, and be clothed with the sun, and have the moon under her feet?”[3]

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[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, 161, 6, ad obj. 2.

[2] Ibid., II-II, 161, 6, obj. 4.

[3] John Henry Newman, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, Discourse 17, ¶12.

 

Our Lady of Humility