And the angel being come in, said unto her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.” Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself, “What manner of salutation this should be?”—St. Luke 1:28-29
I have wondered for awhile why Mary was “troubled” at the announcement of the angel Gabriel. The Carmelite book Divine Intimacy had a meditation yesterday which answers that question with a quote from St. Alphonsus Liguori: “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.”
Another quote from Divine Intimacy comes from St. Bernard on the topic of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s humility: “As no other creature, after the Son of God, has been raised in dignity and grace equal to Mary, so neither has anyone descended so deep into the abyss of humility.”
This quote got me wondering: Why was Jesus more humble than Mary if none could possibly be more humble than either of them?
Here is my best guess: Neither Jesus nor Mary had the slightest sliver of pride, but God-the-Son went from infinite God to zygote, whereas Mary was always the most humble creature. So, as she was always a human, her condescension did not reach the level of God-the-Son going from Creator to assuming the created body and soul of a man, as did Christ’s condescension in the Incarnation. St. Thomas Aquinas says Mary’s virtues were on the “threshold of the infinite” whereas we know Christ’s virtues were fully infinite by virtue of both the hypostatic union and what He won for mankind at Calvary.
So, this brings us to the supreme humiliations of the crucifixion: Even though Jesus and Mary had no pride, their humiliations greatly increased during Christ’s Passion. Jesus was treated as a criminal and Mary was whispered about as if she were the mother of a criminal there on that painful walk to Calvary. So, no two human beings (one being a Divine Person, of course) were ever treated so basely as them, especially considering their underlying dignity and honor as God and the Mother of God, respectively.
Mary’s entire life is summed-up in the Divine Intimacy quote from yesterday: “A holy rivalry seemed to exist between Mary and God: the higher God elevated her, the lowlier she became in her humility.”