On Saturday I heard an interesting quote during the homily at Mass. "Humility is a strange virtue. You lose it the moment you think you have it." The priest was preaching on the last line of Saturday's Gospel which states, " Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt. 23:12). It is a bit of a paradox, for how do you humble yourself without being aware that you are being humble?
I have been reflecting upon the virtue of humility for quite awhile now. It is something that we as Christians should strive for, and certainly as a Benedictine, humility is a virtue that I should be assimilating into my life. In the Holy Rule, Father Benedict writes:
"Accordingly, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw "angels descending and ascending" (Gen 28:12). Without a doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility. Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven."
True humility comes with knowing who we are before God and in our complete dependence upon Him, being always aware of His presence. True humility also comes with obedience to the will of God. Both require trust and turning over our will to our Creator. This doesn't come easy. I know it is difficult to not desire recognition or not feel pride in a job well done. Then there is the distinction between real humility and false humility. Being humble does not mean that we let people walk all over us, or that we constantly put ourselves down. That is false humility. True humility I think is attained when we be who God wants us to be.
Today we celebrate the memorial of the Queenship of Mary. Mary is the perfect example of true humility. We hear her humility reflected in 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;
Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
And Holy is His name.
Mary unconditionally accepted the will of God and by virtue of her humility and by virtue of her Love and obedience to God, she was crowned as Queen of Heaven and of earth. We are called to imitate Mary in all her virtues but especially in her humility. To be humble is to "prefer nothing to the Love of Christ", to put all my trust in God and to proclaim His praises in all that I am and all that I do.
Pope Benedict XVI beautifully expressed following Mary's way of humilty in a homily addressed to the youth of Loreto in September of 2007.
…the way of humility is not the way of renunciation but that of courage. It is not the result of a defeat but the result of a victory of love over selfishness and of grace over sin. In following Christ and imitating Mary, we must have the courage of humility; we must entrust ourselves humbly to the Lord, because only in this way will we be able to become docile instruments in his hands and allow him to do great things in us.