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Ecce Ancilla Dei

Read: Luke 1:38, 44-55

In the well-known story of Mary learning that she is to be the mother of the Messiah, we note how she identifies herself as ‘The Lord’s servant’.  The  beautiful Latin expression for this is ‘ecce ancilla Dei’.

Of all the privileges that God has given mankind in history, none is comparable to the privilege of bearing the Son of God and growing him as a child into the world.  If anyone could have been proud of herself, it was Mary. But this young teenager gives us a deep lesson in humility as the one whom the Lord has seen in her ‘humble state’ (vs 48).

Here is what we learn from her reply:

  1. ‘I am a servant’.  Mary sees privilege as a service.  She is a ‘doloue‘ (Greek). An ‘ancilla‘ (Latin).  A servant. This is what love of God and love of our neighbour ought to look like. Privilege is a service, not a means to build my own fame.
  2. ‘May the Lord do to me’.  Mary sees herself as a passive beneficiary of God’s work.  It is not ‘I will do’ but God is the agent who will do something through me.
  3. ‘Others will call me blessed’.   Notice she does not say that others ‘will say I’m great’ or ‘how good I am at this’.  She aims at being called blessed because the Lord has done great things.

Are you like Mary? A channel through which even the greatest ability, privilege or position may pass without us holding onto it for our own self-grandeur?

But beware.  The story of Mary is just one story and it does not tell the entire story.  In this story, Mary is passive and the Lord does everything.   But it not always so.  We are often called to collaborate with the grace of God.   This means that there is a legitimate place for us to recognise our own work as well.   When Paul describes his church planting work in  Corinth, he strikes this beautiful balance between his work and the work of God: ‘I planted the seed… but God has been making it grow’ (1 Corinthians 3:6).  And God sees our work and promises to reward it (Matthew 6:4).

So let us not be awkward in our efforts to be humble.  If we have worked hard, mended a relationship or improved our character through intentional habituation, let us enjoy a legitimate Sabbath rest of accomplishment in what is well done.

A prayer:  Lord, may we not be among the proud whom you will scatter, but among the humble who are lifted up by you. Teach us to be servants and to want to be called blessed.  Teach us also to take rightful ownership for the things we have done and deep joy for the things that you will reward us for.



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