She's the Guide to Avoiding Pride

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By Marc Massery

Last month, we talked about prudence, the second Evangelical Virtue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this issue, we'll discuss the third of the Blessed Mother's Evangelical Virtues: humility.

Of all the Blessed Mother's virtues, her humility might be the virtue most frequently extolled by the Church. It happens to be the third of the Blessed Mother's Evangelical Virtues mentioned in the Gospels. Ironically, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself actually mentions this virtue of hers, in the first few lines of her Magnificat: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness. ..." (Lk 1:47-48) This translation of the Bible uses the word "lowliness." Other translations use the word "humility."

The word "humility" comes from a Latin word that means "ground" or "dirt." But humility doesn't merely mean having a low opinion of oneself. Saint Thomas Aquinas says true humility "consists in keeping oneself within one's own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one's superior." So, the virtue of humility keeps selfish desires for personal glory in check, while making room for a proper love of self in respect to God and neighbor.

By believing herself lowly, the Blessed Mother wasn't merely putting on pious airs. In her humility, she knew the truth about herself, that she was simply a creature created by Almighty God. Yes, He chose her to be the Mother of God. Yes, she was conceived without stain of original sin. But she knew that these blessings, and all her blessings, came about only by God's grace. This is why it wasn't prideful for Mary to speak about her own humility in her Magnificat. She was merely stating the truth.

In her Diary, St. Faustina recorded an instance in which the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her and spoke of her humility. Our Lady said, "The soul's true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing, because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble, He always opposes the proud" (1711).

The Blessed Mother recognized that pride was the worst of all vices. Pride, after all, was the original sin that led to the fall of man. In the Garden of Eden, Eve disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit because Satan tricked her into supposing that she knew better than God. In other words, Eve (as well as Adam) disturbed the natural order of things, refusing to submit to their superior.

As the New Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary perfectly exemplifies humility, the very virtue that opposes pride. Our Lady never once insisted that she knew better than God. Instead, she always submitted to His will. For example, when the Archangel Gabriel came to her, Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). The beautiful thing about humility is that when one exemplifies this virtue, God ultimately exalts the humble soul, just as He exalted Mary. One, therefore, can be exalted by God and remain humble.

So, let's pray for a greater awareness of our littleness in relation to God. Let's ask the Blessed Mother to help us attain the virtue of humility, so that we may glorify God more and more in the way we conduct our lives.

Next month, we'll reflect on the fourth of the Blessed Virgin Mary's 10 Evangelical Virtues: faith.

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