A whitened page will never be a white page, nor will a whitened canvas a white canvas, just as a soul made white never be a white soul.
The Church is freed from all stain BUT Mary is preserved from all stain.
The Church has wrinkles that will one day be smoothed out. BUT Mary, by God’s grace has nothing that needs to be smoothed. (Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa)
- We have often been part of meetings or just prayed alone when we have praised God when our mind was not in it, nor were we exercising any kind of faith. We were praising with a string or words that helped us go through the motions. Whatever the situation was, it didn’t change, we didn’t change and we came out the same way we went in.
- One of the important things to remember while praising is that praise is not magical that “automatically” makes things happen. Words of praise have power but when uttered with little or no faith, we do not unleash the power they have.
- Every tree is known by the fruit that it produces and a tree can bear good fruit only if it has a good root or a good seed. Similarly for us to bear fruit in our lives and for our praise to have an effect, the heart from which it is offered needs to adopt a posture of:
- Trust and Faith
all of which were so perfectly found in Mother Mary
To look at this more closely, we will go through the Magnificat, a revealing passage of what Mary’s heart was constantly set on:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
And His mercy on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and his posterity forever.
TRUST & FAITH
- To whom could Mary explain what had taken place in her? Who would believe her when she said that the child she was carrying in her womb was the work of the Holy Spirit? This was something that had never taken place and would never take place again.
- Mary was well aware of what the law said if the signs of virginity were not found in a young woman at marriage: She would be brought to the door of her father’s house and stoned to death by the men of her city. Mary faced a huge risk. She knew she would face ridicule, solitude and humiliation.
God honours radical risk taking faith. When arks are built, lives are saved. When soldiers march, Jerichos tumble. When staffs are raised, seas open. When lunch is shared, thousands are fed. And when a garment is touched by an anaemic woman in Galilee- Jesus stops! God stops and responds (Max Lucado)
Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (Jn20:29)
Mary was the first to have believed without having seen.
- Mary believed on the spot. She never hesitated. On the contrary, she committed herself at once. She believed that she would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit. She didn’t say to herself: Let’s see if this strange promise shall come true. If she hadn’t trusted, the Word would not have become flesh in her and Elizabeth would not have greeted her as the mother of the Lord.
Eve believed the serpent and brought death into the world but Mary believed in the angel and brought life into the world (Tertullian)
That which Eve had bound through her unbelief, Mary loosened through her faith. (St. Irenaeus)
How could Mary Trust without having seen?
STORY: A little boy was caught alone in a burning building. By the time he was traced, it was too late for anyone to venture in. The fire service had been called in. The chief officer told the boy to just close his eyes and jump down from his balcony on the 5th floor. The boy instantly did so and was caught by the outstretched arms of the officer. Reporters crowded around the boy and asked him, “Were you not afraid when you took the leap?” The boy pointed to the officer and said, “Why should I be afraid? He’s my father. I trust his word. I knew I would be safe in his hands.
- Our trust in God is dependent on how trustworthy God has been.
- Those who trust God, trust because they “know my Name” (Psalms 9:10). Knowing God’s name means that we already have a relationship with Him, when we are already walking closely with God and so know where God is at work. If our praise is the fruit of lips who know His name, then trust is essential for us to be able to praise Him genuinely.
- Scripture is replete with promises of hope for those who trust in the Lord.
- Psalms 9:10 – Those who know your name put their trust in you for you O Lord have never forsaken those who seek you.
- Psalms 22:5 – To You our ancestors cried and they were saved. In You they trusted and were not put to shame.
- Psalms 37:5 – Trust in the Lord and He will act.
- Psalms 56:11 – In God I trust. What can a mere mortal do to me?
- Isaiah 26:3 – Those who trust in the Lord are peaceful.
- Mary who was well versed in scripture knew all these promises of the Lord. The Lord had never failed to deliver on His promises. As such, her trust in the Lord grew, knowing fully well that if this was what the Lord willed then He would certainly bring it to fulfilment, no matter how impossible it seemed.
Mary treasured the word of God and pondered it in her heart
- Trust allows a praising heart to rest assured that God will act. Trust is an act of faith in a particular situation, that even though things remain as they are, the end is clear and God will do what he knows must be done.
- Praise then becomes a declaration of what is not yet visible but remains alive in faith.
- Mary’s clinging to God in times of trial and in moments of not knowing what the outcome would be, exhibited a depth of faith in God that allowed Him to do even greater things through her than would have otherwise been possible. We are challenged to praise God in times of trial and despair – this requires a deep trust and faith; which will allow God to take charge.
- Humility, we often think, is just the act of denying attention, accepting humiliation, essentially a deprivation of self. While this is true, Mary, echoing the prayer of Hannah, shines forth her humility in placing all the focus on God and identifies herself only with regard to God.
- Her soul makes nothing apparent other than the truth of God – Mary’s purpose was to magnify God, to make Him known and His doing evident. (Examine our own souls and see what/ who it is that we magnify)
- To magnify another is to make them more visibly present, to let others see him/her more clearly and at the same time to move out of the way and not cast a shadow over them. We often find ourselves “testifying for God” when in fact we are speaking about what we have done or achieved.
An example of Magnifying another: St. Joseph Vaz
Saint Joseph Vaz was on missionary work in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile his nephew in Goa was intending to join priesthood. Knowing fully well how good a priest his uncle was, he wrote to him a letter asking for advice as to how he too could become a good priest. Fr. Joseph Vaz did not take much time in sending a very brief reply in which he told his nephew, “In order to be a good priest, be humble like the moon. The moon has nothing of its own but relies totally on the Sun and shares with the world the light received from it”. Like the moon we too are nothing and should share with everyone what we receive from our God.
Humility is the foundation and guardian of all virtues for without it no other virtues can exist is a soul.(St. Bernard)
Around the time when Mary was of marriageable age, everybody was expecting the Saviour to be born in their home. Mary, humble to the core, used to pray to God, “Lord, make me a servant in the house where your son will be born”. See the depth of that humility and see how that profound humility is rewarded. She who prays to be a servant is made the Mother of God Himself.
“God so loves humility that wherever He sees it, He is immediately drawn there.” (St. Francis de Sales)
- True humility in relation to God is the awareness that I am only a creature who was made not for my own purpose but for His purpose, that my will is subject to His will and my desire too is subject to His.
- Mary recedes into the background during Jesus’ public life knowing that her son must establish a spiritual family of disciples. In the wedding feast of Cana too, Mary shifts all the attention onto Jesus by telling the servants:“Do whatever He tells you.”
- Mary is mentioned only a few times in the bible while Jesus is mentioned close to or more than 1000 times. It is a sign for itself where Mary’s great humility is revealed as very little is spoken about her whereas her son is givena much greater importance.
- Mary deflects all the praise given to her, right back at God, the source of her greatness.
- There is no thought of self glorification, self pity or self defence, those three arch enemies, hiding within each person, waiting for a moment of weakness to bring about a downfall.
- Mary goes on to recall the great things God has done for her. It would not take much to say that she did great things and that God helped her do it. But she knows that she can contribute to the salvation of the world not by carrying out her own agenda but by placing herself completely at the disposal of God’s will.
What Mary did in the Magnificat was that she attributed to God’s grace the great thing that was taking place in her and took no credit for herself.
St. Paul teaches us that the first thing that we must do in answer to God’s grace is to give thanks.
“I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God” 1 Corinthians 1:4
To give thanks doesn’t mean to pay back a favour or give in exchange the same as one has received. Who could give God something in exchange?
Actually to give thanks means to acknowledge grace not to wish to ransom ourselves or give to God the price of our life. Psalms 49:8
To give thanks means accepting ourselves as debtors, as dependants on God, letting God be God.
- Humility is then an attitude that reveals not what we want to believe about ourselves, or even a denial of what is rightfully ours. Humility is us seeing ourselves as we truly are – “All men are like grass” (1Pet 1:24) and yet God finds it worthwhile to be “mindful of us” (Ps 8:4)
- To realize our limited ability and the greatness of God causes our praise to be true, undebated in our minds, and gives God His rightful place in our lives to carry out His plans.
Only when we humble ourselves before the Lord can He exalt us (James 4:10)
After the Son of God, no creature in the world was so exalted as Mary, because no creature in the world ever humbled itself so much as she did. (St. Bernardine)
We can never be the true children of Mary if we are not humble (St. Gregory)
The Panaghia or All Holy icon venerated especially in Russia is the icon that best expresses all of this. The Mother of God is standing in an upright position with her arms raised in an attitude of total submission and acceptance.
The Lord with her is depicted as a princely child, visible in the centre of her bosom.
Her expression is one of wonder, silence, humility as if she were saying, ‘See what the Lord has done for me, when He turned his gaze on this, His humble servant.”
- Submission, requires humility and trust. Submission trusts unquestionably and is ready to accept whatever it may entail.
- Submission tells God that, “You know better and I trust that you are always good, as you say that you are.” Our praise must then spring forth from the depth of our being because it is there that we are being tested or purified.
- Marys submission is seen when she entrusted herself completely into God’s hand, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” The word handmaid here indicates someone who is wholly owned by her master.
- Declaring herself to be the handmaid of the Lord, Mary gave her body, mind, soul and spirit to the Lord. Everything was now in His hands alone. God was the owner of her reputation, her life, her all.
“For this faithful handmaid never, in either thought, word or deed contradicted the most High; but, entirely deprived of her own will, she lived always and in all things obedient to that of God.” (St. Thomas of Villanova)
- Mary proved how ready she was to obey in all things. In the first place, when, to please God she obeyed the Roman emperor and undertook the long journey to Bethlehem in the winter and in such poverty she gave birth to her son in a stable
- When Simeon tells Mary that, “a sword shall pierce your own soul,” (Lk 2:35) there is no sign of protest or resistance rather she marvels at what God will do through that. Imagine being present at the baptism of your child where God reveals that you must suffer because you have willingly accepted your child. But above all, she showed heroic obedience when to obey the divine will, she offered her son to death.
- Our natural response is to kick and fight for relief but Mary submits herself to all that God would allow because she is fully aware that God is the one who is in control. She knows who God is to her and who she is to God and submits to what He allows, knowing that nothing is beyond His control and her praise is this:
It is he who made the earth by his power,
Who established the world by his wisdom,
And by his understanding stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.(Job 42:2)