“I am the LORD’s servant,” Mary answered. “Be it unto me as you will” (Luke 1:38).
“Nothing impresses us more than the calmness with which, after the first trouble was past, the virgin received the message of the angel. She was not dazzled nor excited by her glorious future. She was not touched by any vanity. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” In nothing more than in this is the simple greatness of her character displayed. What was the reason of this? It was that the thought of God’s presence with her destroyed all thought of self. She could not think of her greatness otherwise than as bestowed by God. ” He that is mighty hath magnified me.” She could not feel the flutter of vanity. It died in the thought of the glorious salvation which was coming to her country and the world. She was nothing; God was all.
Do you want a cure for that false humility, that mock modesty, which says, ” I am not worthy,” and trumpets its denial till all the world knows that an honour has been offered; which, while it says with the lips, “It is too great for me,” feels all the time in the heart that self-consciousness of merit which betrays itself in the affected walk and the showy humility? Would you be free from this folly? Learn Mary’s secret.Feel that God is all; that, whether He makes you great, or leaves you unknown, it is the best for you, because it is His work.
Do you want a cure for that unhappy, restless vanity, ever afraid, yet ever seeking to push itself forward; ever shy, yet ever trembling on the verge of impertinence; which shows itself to inferiors in rank in a bustling assumption of superiority which suspects it is not superior, and to superiors in rank by an inquietude, an ignorance of when to speak and when to be silent, sometimes by a fawning submission, sometimes by an intrusive self-assertion? Learn Mary’s secret. Feel that you are the child of God, not the servant or the master of any man, but the servant of Christ, who was the servant of all.
Vain! What have any of us to be vain of? Rank? wealth? beauty? pomp of household? dress? splendour of appearance? A few years, and we are lying in the chill earth of the churchyard; our eye dead to admiration, our ear to praise; and the world — whose smile we forfeited eternal life to court — regrets us for an hour, and then forgets. And that is human life! No; it is the most miserable travesty of it. We stand in the presence of God.
What are all the adventitious advantages of rank or wealth to Him, or to us in Him? Only the tarnished spangles, the tinsel crowns, the false diamonds, which are the properties of this petty theatre which we call the world. Once be able to say in your heart, ” behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me as He will,” and vanity and all its foolish fluttering tribe of small victories over others, of pushing meannesses, of restless desires, of little ostentations, will abandon your heart for ever. The true greatness, wealth, nobility, is to be at one in character with the everlasting goodness, truth, and love of God; to be great with the magnanimity of Christ, to be rich in all the eternal virtues, to be noble among the aristocracy of the best men. He who possesses these can never be vain, and the way to possess them is the Virgin’s way — to be the servant of God, to do His will.”
-STOPFORD A. BROOKE (1832-1916)