A now-obscure feast day reminds us of the importance of knowing the truth of ourselves and God.
Though not widely celebrated, July 17 is dedicated to Our Lady of Humility.
Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, Queen of the Universe, was chosen as the one to bring the Savior of us all into this world. Yet, among the very first words she speaks are “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” From the beginning she placed herself last.
This woman who prevailed upon the Incarnate God to perform his first miracle shows us what humility truly is — how it is not to be confused with self-deprecation, but rather, how it is a firm rooting in truth.
Our Lady of Humility has a rich tradition in art. She is generally depicted sitting on the floor or on a low cushion, often with her little Son in her arms.
One such image, from 1383, is associated with a miracle; witnesses saw drops of sweat pour from the Virgin’s face as they were taking refuge nearby to escape civil strife.
Pope St. John Paul II, in a homily given on November 1, 2000, while celebrating Mass on the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s pronouncement of the dogma of the Assumption, helps us all to understand how profound this feast day truly is. He calls humility the foundation of Mary’s holiness.
Here, an excerpt:
The depth of the Blessed Virgin’s faith in God’s word appears clearly in the song of the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, / and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, / for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” (Lk 1:46-48).
In this song Mary shows what constituted the foundation of her holiness: deep humility. We might ask ourselves in what did her humility consist? Much is said to us by the “trouble” she felt at the Angel’s greeting: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). Before the mystery of grace, the experience of a particular presence of God who has rested his gaze upon her, Mary feels a natural impulse of humility (literally, of “abasement”). It is the reaction of someone who is fully aware of her own littleness before the greatness of God. In this truth Mary beholds herself, others and the world.
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