“We offer Thee, O Lord Jesus, this first decade in honor of Thy Incarnation, and we ask of Thee, through this mystery and through the intercession of Thy most Holy Mother, a profound humility.” (St. Louis de Montfort)
We have already explored Mary’s humility within the mystery of the Annunciation. But St. Louis de Montfort challenges us to consider an even deeper humility – that of Our Lord. He does this by referring to the first Joyful Mystery as the Incarnation. The Annunciation and the Incarnation are two very different events. The Annunciation pays tribute to the exchange between the angel Gabriel and Mary – of God’s great request and Mary’s humble response. The Incarnation, however, refers to the awesome mystery of God becoming human within Mary’s womb.
Before Jesus came to us, God rarely graced His people with His presence. And when He did, His power was mighty and His people feared Him. The Old Testament illustrates both His power and the people’s fear many times over. Yet even this fear was not enough to keep them from falling into sin. His people were called to holiness, just as we are. But holiness is best taught by example, and not by fear and rules alone. So He had to try to touch our hearts and show us a path to holiness in a different way.
There is a common homily story used to illustrate why God would decide to become one of us. The story tells of a man trying to gather freezing geese into the garage for the night to keep them safe from the winter weather. Despite his best intentions, the geese were too frightened and kept running away from him. The man says to himself, “If only I could become like one of these birds, they would not be so afraid of me and would follow me into safety.” And so it was when God deigned to become one of us.
Before the Nativity, God was so powerful a human could die from the very sight of Him. So He sent His Son to us as an infant for all to gaze upon and adore, thus endearing Himself to us. When at one time His greatness required that only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year and plead for the people, the Infant Jesus came to us so that we could approach Him ourselves with our every need. And while at one time touching the Ark in which God was contained brought about certain death, Jesus, nestled in the arms of His mother, allowed the world to caress His cheek.
But just as this act of humility allowed us to love and adore Him, it also left Him vulnerable to our wrath. While some gazed in adoration, others glared with hate. As some came to Him to acknowledge Him as the Savior and ask of Him all they needed to gain Heaven, others cursed Him, mocked Him and spat in his face. And while some may have kissed the Infant’s head, hugged Him and played with Him, others chose to scourge Him and hang Him on a cross.
Did this vulnerability take away any of His greatness? Did the Incarnation make Him, somehow, a lesser God? No. Instead, His wisdom has shown us, through the Inarnation and through the virtue of humility, the vastness of His awesome and unsurpassed power. And at the same time, His humility and vulnerability succeeded in winning the hearts of His people where His power and might had failed. For St. Alphonsus de Liguori states, “The more Thou appearest to me humbled and despised, the more dear and worthy of love dost Thou become to me.” .
If God’s humility makes you uneasy, remember how it all ends: through perfect humility, Jesus conquers death itself! And that is precisely what we are to take away from this Mystery. St. Theresa of Avila has said that humility is simply truth. It is clearly knowing and acknowledging who you really are compared to God. And once you have obtained self-knowledge, it is only then you will be able to climb to the highest heights of virtue – by allowing yourself to remain the lowliest of all. And from that humility will spring forth our greatness in the eyes of Our Lord, where, in the end, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
“Grace of the mystery of the Incarnation, come down into my soul and make it truly humble.”
Copyright 2010 Cassandra Poppe