During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
This is the first recorded act of Mary after hearing the news that she would bear the Son of God. Mary “set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah” to be with her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Mary did not think first of herself and what her own pregnancy could mean. She went instead to help Elizabeth who was in need. Mary thought of others and put the needs of Elizabeth before her own needs.
Mary greets Elizabeth and within Elizabeth’s womb, John leaps for joy. John somehow senses the nearness of the Lord within Mary’s womb. John’s greeting is the first that Jesus receives from this world. John leaps for joy, the joy that comes only from knowing that the Savior is with us.
Then Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” is the first to recognize Mary as the Mother of God. Mary, the most blessed of all women. Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, the New Eve. The words with which Elizabeth greets Mary are used in the first part of the Ave Maria. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
My favorite part of Elizabeth’s greeting, however, is not this first sentence but rather the second: “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” I’m not exactly sure why this seems so important to me. It is something that I could see myself saying. It seems, to me, to be a question of “why me?” In this sentence, I read Elizabeth as questioning why Mary came to her. Mary could have gone elsewhere or not come at all. Still, Mary chose to be with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth also tells Mary of the greeting John gives, leaping for joy within her womb. It is Mary who can understand John’s joy. Mary is full of that joy as well, the joy of doing the will of God. And this is what Elizabeth also says, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary, unlike Zechariah, believed what the angel said. She accepted the will of the Lord in her life. By her “yes,” the Lord is given a human body with which to ensure our salvation from sin and death. Mary believed and her belief is what allowed Jesus to come into the world.
Humility is of the most vital importance to the spiritual life of the Christian. On this virtue it could be argued all others are dependent. St. Augustine says:
Humility is the foundation of all the virtues; therefore, in a soul where it does not exist here can be no true virtue, but the mere appearance only. In like manner, it is the most proper disposition for all celestial gifts. And, finally, it is so necessary to perfection, that of all the ways to reach it, the first is humility; the second, humility; the third, humility. And if the question were repeated a hundred times, I should always give the same answer.
Charity is built upon humility, for humility enables us to see the vast worth of others and the merit in sacrificing ourselves for their sakes. In humility we are able to reject our own wants and desires in favor of serving those around us. Through humility we learn to mortify our own wills, to not feel in any way ‘worthy’ of attaining what we want. Our greatest joy comes in giving our all.
Obedience is built upon humility, for humility makes us conscious of our position in respect to others. We see the vast difference between God and ourselves, and are aware of how far His ways are above our ways, which inspires us to a perfect obedience to His will. Humility aids us in our obedience to others; for the princess this generally means to our parents. I think I would be saying that the vast majority of the time our inclination to disobedience doesn’t stem from a disagreement on the necessity of doing what we’ve been commanded, or an objection to the morality of what is being asked, but a frank a very human dislike of saying: “Yes, sir,” and obeying. Humility is the contrast to this pride.
Reverence is built upon humility, in many ways like obedience. We are conscious of how far above us our God is, and are filled with awe and a holy fear.
Humility is the key to joy and wonder. The princess should never be complacent in her position in life. She should never consider her position as a princess as only natural, or as making sense, or as being proper. She should always be aware of the huge condescension on God’s part, and it should always astound her.
That God created us is amazing enough. That a Being completely sufficient in Himself, having no lack of anything, should create us simply because He wanted to, because He loved us, should baffle us beyond words.
That we are alive at all, created in His image, is extraordinary. That He actually cares intimately for us, and loves each one of us in a profoundly personal way, is additionally wondrous. He didn’t merely create us on a whim and then leave us to ourselves. One could say in a sense that though He does not technically need us, for there is no void in Him to be filled, He loves us so much that He has chosen to need us. Though the gift of life would have been beyond any repaying, for Him it was not enough. He wanted to give us more than just life, but an eternal life with Him.
And for this purpose He became Incarnate, and suffered and died a hideous death. At this point our amazement would rightly turn to a sense of fear. That an all-powerful God would create us, love us, and then become one of us and die for us is beyond the scope of all human imagination. He has done the unimaginable, for completely inferior and unworthy creatures. He has done it freely, out of love.
That we are princesses should not be a source of complacency to us. It should, if we were to really and genuinely think of it, scare us nearly out of our wits. That the King created us, loved us, became one of us and died for us… this is already too much to comprehend. That in addition, as a finishing touch, He should actually take His servants to His Heart as children is unthinkable. And, yet… it’s true.
We are princesses by virtue of an extraordinary condescension on His part. We are not worthy to even be his slaves, yet He offers Himself as a Father and Brother.
The eighth psalm should be constantly in our souls and minds. It is very similar to Mary’s Magnificat, in that it is both a recognition of the great honours that God has bestowed upon us and a humble proclamation that to God belongs all praise and glory, that it is not through our merit that we are so blessed but through His goodness.
For I will behold thy heavens, the work of thy fingers: the moon and the stars which thou hast founded. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. And hast set him over the works of thy hands.
This is the attitude the princess should have towards the wonder of the love God has shown her. She is not worthy to approach Him. She dares to, though, because His love asks it of her, and her love compels her.
Humility is one of the chief characteristics of the princess. She constantly looks to the superiority of her King in contrast to her own unworthiness, and to the example of her Queen, who in the midst of all her honour and glory professed only that she was His handmaiden.
For the Introduction and Parts 1-9, click here.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human vesture,
in the Body and the Blood
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of Light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.
At his feet the six-winged seraph;
cherubim with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the Presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”
This is one of my most favorite non-Marian hymns! I first learned it with the Sisters where the first two lines were all we sang as part of a joke. :-)
“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” -Luke 2:11
Merry Christmas, everyone! May the Infant King reign in your hearts and bless you abundantly.
O come, let us adore Him.