She well knew that a virgin was to be the mother of the Messiah; and she hears those praises offered by the angel to herself, which seemed to belong only to the mother of God; did it then come into her mind that perhaps she herself might be that chosen mother of God? No, her profound humility did not permit this thought. These praises had no other effect than to cause her great fear; so that, as St. Peter Chrysologus remarks: As Christ wished to be consoled by an angel, so must the Virgin be encouraged by an angel. As the Saviour willed to be comforted by an angel, so it was necessary that St. Gabriel, seeing Mary so full of fear at that salutation, should encourage her, saying: “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.” Do not fear, oh Mary, nor be surprised by the great titles by which I have saluted thee, for if thou art so little and humble in thine own eyes, God, who exalts the humble, has made thee worthy to find the grace lost by man; and therefore has he preserved thee from the common stain of all the children of Adam; therefore, even from the moment of thy conception he has adorned thee with a greater grace than that of all the saints; and therefore, finally, he now exalts thee to be his mother.
She was indeed well enlightened to understand how great was the dignity of the mother of God. She already had been assured by the angel that she was this happy mother chosen by the Lord. But with all this she is not at all raised in her own esteem, stops not at all to enjoy her exaltation, but considering on one side her own nothingness, and on the other the infinite majesty of her God, who chose her for his mother, she knows how unworthy she is of such an honor, but would by no means oppose herself to his will.
The humble Mary; the more she saw herself exalted, the more she humbled herself. Ah Lady, for this beautiful humility, concludes St. Bernard, thou hast indeed merited to be regarded by God with peculiar love, to charm thy King with thy beauty; to draw him with the sweet odor of thy humility, from his repose in the bosom of God, into thy most pure womb. Hence St. Bernardine de Bustis says, that Mary merited more by that answer: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” than all creatures could merit by their works.
Thus, says St. Bernard, this innocent Virgin, although by her virginity she rendered herself dear to God, yet by humility afterwards rendered herself worthy, as much as a creature can render itself worthy, to be made the mother of her Creator. Although she pleased by her virginity, by her humility she conceived. And St. Jerome confirms this by saying, that God chose her for his own mother more for her humility, than for all her other sublime virtues.
Text from St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1888).