Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe: Friday is her feast day

Friday is a very big deal in our hemisphere, even here in Charlottesville, though you might not notice.  The Catholic Church if the Incarnation is hosting hundreds of people at pre-dawn Eucharists Friday  early so people can get to work. The first Eucharist is at 2 am.

Let me tell you why Dec. 12 is an important feast day for millions of people. It is a story of dark-skinned peasants resisting the powerful, and the Holy Spirit doing what the Holy Spirit does ...

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.

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.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

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