Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
St. Mary
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
(Luke 1:50)

Ettu Nombu Special
Theme: Humility
Volume 6 No. 365 September 1, 2016

Featured Articles

We observe 8-Day Lent from September 1 through September 8. The lent ends on September 8, the Birthday of St. Mary.

Although not canonically required, 8 Day Lent is widely observed by our Malankara Diaspora. In fact, after the lent during the Passion Week, this is the most observed lent in our church. If you are in Kerala, you will be spending the 8 days in a Marian pilgrimage center such as the Manarcadu St. Mary's Cathedral spending time in prayer, devotion and meditation. One of the special characteristic of 8 day lent is that more non-Christians observe this lent as compared to Christians. So, intercession to St. Mary is prized by Christians and non-Christians alike.

This Malankara World Journal will look at the virtues we learn from St. Mary, The Theotokos. The first quality we learn from St. Mary is the importance of Humility. It is the most prized virtue by God. Jesus taught us to be humble. He told us that in His Kingdom, servant leadership is the most prized virtue. God hates pride; but values a "contrite heart."

You can learn more about humility from the articles below. We also provide the archive of all Journals with the theme "Humility."

You can also read the Malankara World Specials on 8-Day Lent from here:

Tomorrow, we will examine another prized virtue from St. Mary's life.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

Listening To Mary's Voice – Humility

by Gary Zimak

Let us take a look at the powerful statement made by Mary to the angel Gabriel. Having made a vow of virginity, Mary was confused as to how God's will could be fulfilled. She didn't doubt that it could happen (unlike Zechariah, who flat out didn't believe that his wife could become pregnant), she just wanted to know how it would happen so that she wouldn't have to break her prior vow of virginity. Mary sought to understand God's will. Gabriel answered her question by explaining that it would come about by the power of the Holy Spirit. He also informed her that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, is now sixth months pregnant. Then Gabriel gave Mary a great takeaway from their dialog when he stated that "nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37).

Mary's response to all of this news?

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." (Luke 1:38)

Because many of us are very familiar with Mary's statement, we run the risk of overlooking how profound it actually is. These eight words give us a great insight into Mary's view of herself. In this statement, she is saying to God, "I am your humble servant, use me in any way that you wish". Unlike many of us, she fully understood that she was merely a creature and that the Lord was her Master. According to the dictionary, a handmaid is "a servant who serves a useful, but subordinate purpose". When Mary refers to herself as a "handmaid", she is professing her humility. Despite just having been told that she will be the vessel used to deliver the Savior to the world, Mary referred to herself as a servant. This profession gives us a glimpse into Mary's interior attitude and provides an example that is worthy of our emulation. In his book "The Glories Of Mary", St. Alphonsus Liguori stated that the first effect of humility is a lowly opinion of oneself. Even though Mary was aware of her sinlessness, she understood that it was all due to God's grace. How important is humility? St. Bernard of Clairvaux observed that "humility is the foundation and guardian of the virtues". More importantly, Jesus instructed us to "learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29).

Without humility, it is impossible for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Unfortunately, humility is also one of the most difficult virtues to acquire. As evidence, look at how many times we question events that occur in our lives. Why is God allowing this to happen to me? We pray "Thy Will be done" and, at the same time, provide the Lord with a list of acceptable answers to our prayers. Some even go as far as to disobey teachings of the Church because "they don't agree with them." These positions are all incompatible with the virtue of humility and illustrate a serious misunderstanding of who's the Creator and who's the creature! Although it can be a struggle, we can become more humble by asking for the Lord's help through Mary's intercession. After all, who better to ask then someone who viewed herself as nothing more than the Lord's servant?

"If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless."
(St. Augustine)

Source: Following the Truth: Listening To Mary's Voice

Mary's Humility

by Santo Rosario

"Humility," says Saint Bernard, "is the foundation and guardian of the virtues." He is right, for without it no other virtue can exist in the soul. Were a soul to possess all the virtues, all would disappear were humility to go. But, on the other hand, as Saint Francis de Sales wrote to Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, "God loves humility so much, that whenever he sees it, he immediately goes there."

This beautiful and necessary virtue was unknown in the world in early days. But the Son of God came on earth to teach it by his example, and he willed that we should endeavor to imitate him in that virtue particularly:

Learn of me, because I am meek and humble or heart.
(Mt 11:29)

Since Mary was the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus in the practice of the virtues, she naturally excelled in the practice of humility. For this reason, she deserved to be exalted above all other creatures. It was revealed to Saint Matilda that it was humility in which the Blessed Mother particularly excelled, even from her very childhood.

The first effect of humility of heart is a lowly opinion of oneself. Mary always had such a humble opinion of herself that, as was revealed to the same Saint Matilda, although she saw herself enriched with more graces than all other people, she never put herself ahead of anyone. Abbot Rupert, commenting on the passage of the sacred Canticles: You have wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse...with one hair of your neck (Cant 4:9), says that the humble opinion Mary had of herself was the hair with which she wounded the heart of God. Not that Mary considered herself a sinner.

Humility is truth, as Saint Teresa remarks, and Mary knew that she had never offended God. She also knew that she had received more graces from God than all other creatures. A humble heart always acknowledges the special favors of the Lord in order to humble itself all the more. But the Blessed Mother, because of the greater light which made her aware of the infinite greatness and goodness of God, was also aware of her own nothingness. That is why she humbled herself more than everybody else, saying with the sacred Spouse: Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has burned me (Cant 1:5).

That is, as Saint Bernard explains it: "When I approach him, I find myself black." This is true, says Saint Bernardine, because the Blessed Virgin was always vividly conscious of the majesty of God and her own nothingness. When a beggar is given a costly gift, he does not show off with it in the presence of the donor. He receives it humbly and remains conscious of his own poverty. So when Mary saw herself enriched with grace, she humbled herself; reminding herself that it was all God's gift. That is why she told Saint Elizabeth of Hungary that she looked upon herself as a worthless creature and unworthy of the grace of God. And that is why Saint Bernardine says that "after the Son of God, no one in the whole world was ever so exalted as Mary, because no one ever humbled himself to the extent that she did."

Moreover, it is characteristic of humility to conceal heavenly gifts. Mary wished to conceal from Saint Joseph the favor which made her the Mother of God. At the same time it seemed necessary to reveal the secret to him, if only to remove from his mind any suspicions as to her virtue which he might have entertained on seeing her pregnant. Saint Joseph, on the one hand, did not wish to doubt Mary's chastity; and yet on the other hand, being unaware of the mystery, he was minded to have her put away privately (Mt 1:19). And he would have done so had the angel not revealed to him that his spouse was pregnant by the operation of the Holy Spirit.

Again, a soul that is truly humble does not allow herself to be praised. And if praises are showered on her, she refers them all to God. Mary was disturbed at hearing herself praised by Saint Gabriel. She was also disturbed when Elizabeth said: Blessed are you among women....And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?...Blessed is she who has believed (Lk 1:42,43,45). Mary referred everything to God, and replied in the humble words of her canticle: My soul magnifies the Lord (Lk 1:46). This was the same as saying: "You praise me, Elizabeth, but I praise the Lord, to whom alone all honor is due. You wonder why I have come to visit you, while I wonder at the divine goodness that has come to me. And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Lk 1:47). You praise me because I have believed; but I praise my God, because he has exalted my nothingness. He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid (Lk 1:48)." Our Lady said to Saint Bridget: "I humbled myself so much, and have merited so much grace, because I knew that of myself I possessed nothing. That is why I did not want to be praised. I desired only that praise be given to the Creator and Giver of all things." Referring to the humility of Mary, an ancient author says: "O truly blessed humility, which has given God to men, opened heaven, and delivered souls from hell!"

It is also characteristic of humility to serve others. Mary did not hesitate to go and help Elizabeth for three months. Saint Bernard aptly remarks: "Elizabeth wondered why Mary had come to visit her; but - what is still more remarkable - that she came not to be ministered to, but to minister."

Humble persons are usually retiring and choose the least honorable places for themselves. Therefore, as Saint Bernard remarks, "when Jesus was preaching in a house (as we learn in Saint Matthew), Mary, wishing to speak to him, would not enter of her own accord but remained outside, and did not avail herself of her maternal right to interrupt him." And when she was with the Apostles waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, she chose the lowest place, as Saint Luke relates: All these with one mind continued steadfastly in prayer with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14). Saint Luke was not ignorant of the Blessed Mother's merits, which should have caused him to name her first. However, Mary had taken the last place among the Apostles and the women. And therefore he described them, as an author remarks, in the order in which they were. Saint Bernard says: "The last has rightly become the first, because being the first of all she became the last."

Finally, people who are sincerely humble do not look for favor. In fact, they love to be despised. That is why we note that Mary did not show herself in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday when the people received Jesus with so much honor. On the other hand, at his death, she did not hesitate to appear on Calvary. She was undeterred by fear of the ridicule she would incur when it became known that she was the mother of the criminal. On one occasion, Mary said to Saint Bridget: "What is more humbling than to be called a fool, to be in need of things, and to believe oneself the most unworthy of all? Such was my humility, O daughter. It was my constant joy and desire to please my son in this way as much as I could."

Venerable Sister Paola of Foligno was privileged to see in an ecstasy how great the humility of the Blessed Virgin was. Giving an account of it to her confessor, she was so filled with astonishment that she could only say: "Father, you can never understand how great the humility of the Blessed Virgin was! There is no humility in the world comparable to the humility of Mary." On another occasion, Our Lord showed Saint Bridget two women. The one was all glamour and vanity. "She is pride," he said, "but the other one whom you see with her head bowed, courteous to all, devoted to God alone, and considering herself as a nobody, is humility, and her name is Mary." God chose that way of letting us know that Mary is the personification of humility.

There can be no doubt, observes Saint Gregory of Nyssa, that of all the virtues there is perhaps none more difficult for our nature to practice, tainted as it is by sin, than humility. At the same time, we cannot evade this truth: We can be true children of Mary only if we are humble. "If you cannot imitate the virginity of the Blessed Virgin," says Saint Bernard, "imitate her humility." She detests the proud, and invites the lowly to come to her: Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me (Prov 9:4).

Richard of Saint Lawrence writes: "Mary protects us under the mantle of her humility." The Blessed Mother explained to Saint Bridget what her mantle was. "Come," she said, "and hide yourself under my mantle. This mantle is my humility." She then added that meditation on her humility was a cloak or mantle with which we could warm ourselves. But since a mantle gives this service only to those who wear it and not to those who merely think about it, she said: "Mary's humility will not help anybody except those who endeavor to imitate her." And she concluded with these words: "Therefore clothe yourself, my daughter, with this humility."

O how devoted Mary is to humble souls! Saint Bernard says: "She recognizes and loves those who love her. And she is ready to help all that call on her, especially those who resemble her in chastity and humility." So the saint exhorts all those who love Mary to be humble: "Strive to imitate this virtue of Mary, if you really love her." Marinus or Martin d'Alberto, of the Society of Jesus, used to sweep the house and collect the trash out of love for the Blessed Virgin. One day Mary appeared to him, as Father Nieremberg relates in his life, and thanked him saying: "I am very much pleased by this humble action which you do for love of me."

It follows then, O my Queen, that I can never really be your child unless I am humble. But surely you understand that my sins, after having made me ungrateful to my Lord, have also made me proud? O Mary, you must provide the remedy. By the merit of your humility, make me truly humble, and help me in that way to become your child. Amen.

Humble Appointment: Humility of David

by Chuck Swindoll

Here's our first good look at David. He walks into the house, still smelling like sheep, and all of a sudden an old man hobbles over and pours oil on his head. It drips down his hair and drops on to his neck. Josephus, the historian, writes,

"Samuel the aged whispered in his ear the meaning of the symbol, 'You will be the next king.' "

What did David do? What do you do in a situation like that? I mean, it doesn't come along every other day. God's ways are so marvelous, aren't they? At the most surprising moment, the most magnificent things happen. "You're going to be the next king." What did he do? Well, I'm happy to report, he did not go down to the nearest department store and try on crowns. He didn't order a new set of business cards, telling the printer, "Change it from shepherd to king-elect." Didn't have a badge saying, "I'm the new man." Didn't shine up a chariot and race through the streets of Bethlehem, yelling, "I'm God's choice . . . you're looking at Saul's replacement!"

What did he do?

It made no difference that Samuel had anointed him with oil. He didn't bronze that horn and hang it up in his tent. He didn't expect special treatment from others. No, he simply went back to the sheep. And when the king said, "Come on over here and play music for me," David went over and played a little. And when he got through, he thought, Hey, I gotta get back with my sheep; that's my job.

David was sensitive enough to hear the whisper of God's voice, "You will be the next king." But as soon as the big moment was over and they turned out the lights, he was humbly back with his sheep. People had to actually pull him from the sheep to get him to do anything that was related to the limelight. In fact, I think that's one of the reasons he was a man after God's heart. He was always approachable, always believable, always authentic . . . and always faithful in the little things.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright (c) 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Source: Today's Insight from Chuck Swindoll

Bible Inspired Humility
Read Philippians 2:1-11.

The main goal for godly leaders--and Christians in general--is to reflect the life of Christ in their own lives. And the character trait that best enables us to do that is humility. After exhorting the Philippians to lay aside their personal interests and focus on the needs of others, Paul tells us how to follow the example of Christ (vv. 5-11). From this beautiful passage we learn three things about our Lord that model for us the essence of true humility.

First, Jesus didn't selfishly cling to the outer expression of his divinity. Instead, he took the form of a servant. A humble leader doesn't flaunt his or her position or power. Instead, he or she identifies with the weakest member of the team. Second, Jesus demonstrated humility through obedience to God the Father. A humble leader doesn't impose his or her will on God, but submits to God's commands. Third, Jesus waited for his Father to lift him up. A humble leader doesn't grab for power or position. He or she patiently waits for God to increase his or her influence.

Jesus didn't come as a king, but as a helpless infant (Luke 2). Although he was perfectly God and perfectly human at the same time (John 1:14), he lived his life as a humble laborer. After he began his ministry, he demonstrated humble service to others in the miracles he performed, as well as in his instruction to his disciples. When the time came for him to die, he submitted to his Father's divine will (Mark 14:36). And now, seated in power at the right hand of God, he intercedes on our behalf (Acts 5:29-32). As the perfect model for godly leadership, Jesus set the perfect example of humility. Ask God to help you follow Jesus' example as you seek to demonstrate the kind of humility that will cause others to see Jesus in you.

Humility and Who God Is

Humility has fallen on hard times. Contrary to popular opinion, humility is not a matter of weakness or passivity; from a Biblical point of view, it is disciplined strength and other-centered power. In his earthly life, Christ himself was the perfect exemplar of true humility. Turn to Matthew 11:28-30 for a glimpse at what humility really means.

Humility and Who I Am

"My humility cries out for recognition!" "I'm humble and proud of it!" The problem with the virtue of humility is that as soon as we think we have attained it, we have lost it. How do we avoid this dilemma? Turn to Numbers 12:3 for insight into this crucial Biblical virtue.

Humility and How It Works

How can one who is fabulously successful maintain humility? Solomon, arguably one of the most successful men of all time, tells us how. Read Proverbs 25:27 and reflect on Solomon's homily on humility.

Humility and What I Do

Moses gives us an excellent picture of how difficult the battle with pride really is. The ancient Israelites struggled continually with their pride. Their example, and an insightful story by Thomas Merton, will help us realize the importance of cultivating humility. Turn to Deuteronomy 8:1-20.

Passage to memorize:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
James 3:13-16

Source: The Bible-Inspired Leader

6 Aspects of Humility

by John Piper

If humility is not compliance with relativism and is not sophomoric skepticism, what is it? This is important, since the Bible says,

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
(1 Peter 5:5),


"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted"
(Luke 14:11).

God has told us at least six things about humility.

1. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. (Matthew 10:24)

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. (1 Peter 5:6)

2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got.

If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! (Matthew 10:25)

Therefore humility does not return evil for evil. It is not life based on its perceived rights.

Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps; . . . while suffering, He uttered no threats, but handed [his cause] over to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:21-23)

3. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary.

Love rejoices in the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6)

What I [Jesus] tell you in the darkness, speak in the light. . . . Do not fear. (Matthew 10:27-28)

We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)

4. Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing.

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)

5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it; but also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others.

We see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

A wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Proverbs 12:15)

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. (2 Corinthians 5:11)

6. Humility is to believe in the heart and confess with the lips that our life is like a vapor, and that God decides when we die, and that God governs all our accomplishments.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)


Humility of Mary: Mother Teresa on Humility

by Mother Teresa

"True humility requires a careful balance. If a person is filled with pride, he has no need for God. Sometimes people believe just the opposite, though. They do not understand their worth and dignity as children of God. Instead of humility, this, then, becomes a form of pride.

"Humble thy self in the sight of the Lord."

A humble person is one who sees himself as God sees him, with all of his strengths and weaknesses.

"Our most perfect models for humility are Mother Mary and St. Joseph, her husband. Mary's very being proclaimed the greatness of the Lord, yet she was so humble. Mary and Joseph could have been boastful about their special mission from God, but instead they simply chose to cooperate with God's will for their lives."

St. Teresa of Avila said that humility means walking in truth. Pride means walking in falsehood. "Receiving the Sacraments often, especially the Holy Eucharist and Penance, can help us to grow in humility. Spend time with our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration, too!

"Practice Humility!"

*Be truly happy for the successes of other and not jealous or envious of them."

*Admit your own weaknesses and ask for help when needed."

*Do not compare yourself to others, but try instead to use your gifs and talents to give glory to God."

*Do not be boastful. Recognize the source of your talents. "

*Help others without acting superior to them.

"Then He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
Mk 9:35"

It is said that angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. Can we do the same?

"Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven."
Mt. 18:4

"Mother Teresa's Rules of Humility"

1. Speak as little as possible about oneself.
2. Mind one's own business.
3. Avoid curiosity.
4. Do not want to manage other person's affairs.
5. Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully.
6. Pass over the mistakes of others.
7. Accept blame when innocent.
8. Yield to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
11. Be kind and gentle even under provocation.
12. Do not seek to be specially loved and admired.
13. Never stand on one's dignity.
14. Yield in discussions even though one is right.
15. Choose always the hardest.

Malankara World Journal Specials on Humility and 8-Day Lent

Malankara World Journals with the Theme: Humility

Volume 5 No 297: July 31 2015
True Greatness in God's Sight

Volume 5 No 296: July 24 2015
Humility in Christian Life

Volume 4 No 242: October 17, 2014
Theme: Humility in Christian Life

Volume 3 No 179: November 21 2013
Focus: Humility

Malankara World Journal Ettu Nomb Specials

MWJ Ettu Nombu Archives MWJ_8day_Lent_archives.htm

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