Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe? by Luis Chacon
Role of the Invocation of Our Lady Guadalupe
The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is imprinted (by non-human means) on the tilma of San Juan Diego in the Basilica of Guadalupe, located in Mexico City.
After the fourth apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego, she decided to stay forever among the Mexican people.
The official, and oldest, documentation of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the "Nican Mopohua". This document is originally written in the Nahuatl language, which is still used in some regions of Mexico, and it is attributed to Don Antonio Valeriano, who is an indigenous follower of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun.
The first appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego was on Saturday, December 9, 1531, when San Juan Diego was walking towards Tlatelolco to attend Catechism and holy Mass. The fourth apparition was on December 12. In this last apparition, by order of the Virgin of Guadalupe, San Juan Diego brings the roses cut from the top of Tepeyac to Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga, who had requested a test to verify the veracity of the words of San Juan Diego.
San Juan Diego’s Uncle Bernado was seriously ill at home, so he tried to change his route and to avoid the Virgin of Guadalupe. However, the meeting was inevitable. After the fourth appearance, San Juan Diego’s uncle was cured and he began the construction of the temple that the Virgin requested in order to manifest her son.
The Virgin appeared in a society where the victors (the Spaniards) occupied superior positions, while those from the defeated societies were placed in inferior positions. The appearances have appeared in a very special and significant way in a very specific cultural context. The Virgin of Guadalupe is mestizo - she comes from a mixture of two ethnic races characterized not only by the color of the skin, but also by the mixture of two cultures, of two worlds, and of two totally different worldviews.
The indigenous people did not renounce their culture despite the fact that Spanish culture has been imposed on them; rather, they assume elements of both cultures. In Aztec culture, there were mother goddesses and female deities, such as the Tonantzin, who designated the great Mother-Earth goddess Coatlicue (or Cihuacoatl) who was venerated in a sanctuary located in Tepeyac, where the Virgin of Guadalupe later made her appearances.
Due to this conjugation of cultures, the details that surround the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe acquire an impressive symbolic force. We will name just a few: her loose hair (which was a sign of virginity to the Aztecs), her cloak with 46 stars (which represent the sky of the winter solstice of 1531), the rays (which symbolize the sun and subsequently Aztec divinity), hands (joined in a sign of prayer, the left brown, the right whiter as a union of two races), face (brown, oval, and in an attitude of deep prayer), and eyes (they reflect the figures of the people present when she appeared to San Juan Diego). The image of Our Lady of Gaudalupe is a miracle manifested in a work of art where nothing should be removed or added, so as to not affect its harmony and beauty.
The mystery of the incarnation is the theological framework in which the Virgin of Guadalupe appears. God is love that becomes flesh - this is the message that the Virgin of Guadalupe carries in her womb for us. Becoming flesh means becoming human - it means taking our reality completely to teach us to live a life with and for love. Not all of us can become rich and famous, but we can all become poor and spiritually humble. To recognize that we are only human and that our reality is limited is to recognize our poverty and need for God.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is a testimony of acceptance, understanding, and humility. She not only accepts and understands our culture, but also decides to stay with us forever on the tilma of San Juan Diego within the reach of the poorest and simplest. If the virgin had appeared in Tepeyac with a fair complexion and jewels, the indigenous people of Mexico in that historical moment would have obeyed her out of fear and not out of love. If Jesus had been born in a palace surrounded by luxuries and opportunities beyond the reach of the people, the history of Christianity would have been different.
Today, remembering the Virgin of Guadalupe invites us to be humble, to recognize our roots and identity, and to be proud of who we are. The Virgin of Guadalupe gives us identity as a Mexican people. However, the identity of a culture does not mean excluding the others; rather, it means recognizing the richness in diversity and making us aware of the generosity of God that is poured out in different ways in different cultures. We are different so that we may enrich each other with our differences and it is important to realize that no matter the culture or tradition, it is always possible to become poor spiritually and know that we are in need of God.
The Virgin of Guadalupe in our history of Mexico gives us faith because she has walked by our side. She gives us hope because we know that she will always be with us and this should inspire us to be charitable in our day to day lives for and with our brothers.
The Church That we Make Up
In the Church that we make up, the Virgin of Guadalupe teaches us to be attentive to the voice of the poorest and most marginalized (like San Juan Diego), because in the midst of their need, there is the face of God. San Juan Diego met and allowed himself to be found by the Virgin of Guadalupe on the way to fulfill his duty. The fact that the Virgin appeared to him when he was in the midst of dealing with the illness of a loved one invites us to remain faithful in our daily duties, despite disease and adversity. It is on the path of daily life and fulfilling daily duties where the Virgin of Guadalupe will appear and reveal our mission to us, as she did with Saint Juan Diego.
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