The humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

Did Mary know she was sinless since she was conceived without sin, and never committed any sin her entire life?  Wouldn’t it make one proud, and thus sinful, being aware of that?  St. Thomas Aquinas says, “To a humble mind nothing is more astonishing than to hear its own excellence.”  Mary was astonished at the angel’s praise in hailing her as “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) —not because she doubted angels, grace or miracles, but because she was humble.

Mary in her humility was unaware of her own excellence—not because she is deceived, and has an unrealistically low opinion of herself, but because she does not think about herself and her own degree of excellence at all.  If humility were not self-forgetfulness, any virtuous person would have the spiritual dilemma of either directing his attention to his own virtue, which naturally leads to pride, or denying it, which would be a lie.  That’s why humility is closely related to truth or truth about oneself.  Humility is also acknowledging our talents and abilities but to acknowledge them that these were all given to us by God and that we are not the principal cause of them.  “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

There is a trilemma version to this on seeing ourselves and judging our level of virtue.  (1) If we think we are very good, it could make us proud or (2) if we think we are not good, then we must be bad, and settle into despair or (3) if we think we are just average in the spiritual life, we become contented with being mediocre or lukewarm.  The solution is to deny the common assumption of all three, that we must judge ourselves.  It’s God Who judges us all men, both ourselves and our neighbors as St. Paul gave us an example in his letter to the Corinthians, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.  I do not even judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.  It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)

We are to keep our eyes on God and our neighbor’s needs rather than on ourselves.  That’s why God made eyes to see everything but ourselves although we do need to make an examination of conscience from time to time, but mainly to make us aware of our sins so that we can be sorry for them and confess them.  Humility means all the good things that we have come from God and the only thing that we ourselves own is our sins.

The very best object for our eyes to focus on, instead of ourselves, is Christ.  For Christ is both fully God and fully man.  And Mary had Christ to focus on, both physically and spiritually, more totally and intimately than any other human being ever did for Christ grew up before her eyes.  He was the key to her humility, and her humility was the key to her sanctity.  Nothing is more worthy of being the role model in the Christian life than imitating Mary for the whole purpose of Christianity is what Dietrich von Hildebrand called “Transformation in Christ”.  And Mary is our perfect concrete model and heroine for the attainment of this greatest good (summum bonum), to be like Christ, or to be another Christ.