Monday, December 12, 2011
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe: Today is her feast day
Today is a feast day that is enormously meaningful for millions of Christians in our hemisphere, and about which we ought to take note. Let me tell you about it:
Nearly 500 years ago, the story goes, an Aztec with a Spanish name – Juan Diego – saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The local Spanish bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, did not believe him and told him to bring back proof of this vision. Juan Diego came back with his tunic full of flowers – Castilian roses – and the roses were blooming in winter. When Juan Diego poured the roses from his tunic, an image of Mary was imprinted on his tunic.
That image has become probably the most copied and venerated image of Mary in the world.
Today is her feast day - Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, la Virgen de Guadalupe – the Virgin of Guadalupe. This day in 1531 marks when an Aztec brought roses to the bishop, and the bishop had to believe him.
Whether you believe in the story, or believe it happened exactly that way, is less important than what she represents primarily to the people of Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. Her shrine near Mexico City is the most visited Marian shrine in the world.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is sometimes known as the brown virgin – her skin color is that of the indigenous peoples of America. She is the Mary of the poor and the outcasts and those left behind or wiped out as Europeans colonized, industrialized and regimented the Americas. She is the Mary of the lowliest among us who stand up and say "you have it wrong, please listen."
Even the word “Guadalupe” has roots in native Aztec language, and many believe the image is
filled with Aztec symbols. She is the Mary of hope to the poor of the Americas.
There is another level to this that I would commend to you: The Holy comes to us not just in male imagery (God the Father) but in female imagery.
The Holy Spirit is like a wind that will blow where she will, and will show her face in ways that speak to people in the depths of their soul, and give them strength and courage when they most need it. The Virgin of Guadalupe does precisely that for so many, and I have met them (and they weren't all Latino).
Although Our Lady of Guadalupe is not on the official Episcopal calendar of saints, she will be celebrated in many Episcopal churches across the country, particularly in the Southwest.
We've celebrated Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at St. Paul's in year's past, but this year a number of us are taking a bus trip today to tour the National Cathedral. We will be talking about her a bit today on the bus, and then joining a Holy Eucharist at noon at the Cathedral.
As many of you know, I have a small collection of amazing Guadalupe folk art that I keep on my dresser at home. I have Guadalupe candlesticks, tin and ceramic figurines, santos wood carvings, and a lighted Guadalupe concha (shadow box) on the wall. Nearly all of these items are gifts from friends far and wide, and I cherish each item with thanks for the hands that made them.
I've been asked to talk about the Virgin of Guadalupe feast day on a program aired by the University of Virginia radio station WTJU 91.5 on Wednesday at noon. I hope you might tune in!