Celebrating our Lady of Guadalupe

Mary carries the Word
Advent is the season where God waits for the love of his children. He waits, silently, patiently for the moment of grace until the chronos of life (our time) becomes impregnated with his kairos (God’s time), the Word becomes flesh! During Advent we reflect on Jesus in the womb of Mary, growing slowly, silently and invisibly, present even though invisible. Mary is an Advent woman, a woman very dear to my heart. A woman of life, a woman for life, every fibre of her being says ‘Yes’ to carry Jesus in her womb. Today, 12th of December, we celebrate a beautiful Marian feastday which celebrates the gift of life, that of our Lady of Guadalupe.

On the 12th of December 1531, our Lady appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego and requested that a shrine be built and dedicated to her on the Hill of Tepeyac. Juan Diego, upon reporting this event to the bishop, was disappointed because the bishop didn't seem to believe him. Juan returned to the place of the apparition where Our Lady again appeared. She told him to return the next morning when she would give him a sign that would convince the bishop of the truth of her appearance and her request. The following morning Our Lady told Juan to go to the top of the hill and gather Castilian roses that he would find there. Although he knew that only cactus grew there, he obeyed, and his simple faith was rewarded by the sight of beautiful roses growing where she had told him they would be. He gathered them and showed them to Our Lady who rearranged them for him. Juan returned to the bishop. As he opened his tilma (a type of poncho), the roses fell to the floor. All who were present were startled to see an image of Our Lady who was pregnant on the tilma.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Today this image is still preserved on Juan Diego's tilma, which hangs over the main altar in the basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill just outside of Mexico City. In the image, Our Lady is pregnant, carrying the Son of God in her womb. Her head is bowed in homage, indicating that she is not the Goddess, but rather the one who bears and at the same time worships the one true God. When asked who the lady was, Juan replied in his Aztec dialect, “Te Coatlaxopeuh,” which means “she who will crush the stone serpent.” His answer recalls Gen. 3:15 and the depictions of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, her heel on the serpent's head.

Looking at the picture of our Lady of Guadalupe is a catechesis in itself. Her face radiates the very light of God, while her example reveals authentic femininity and her strength. Only by imitating Our Lady’s respect for life from the moment of conception can we hope to inherit life itself. Under her gentle direction we find not only shelter and rest, but confidence and strength to go forth to battle the evil. Through her intercession we can expect tremendous miracles. You can see the compassion in the face of the Blessed Virgin. Many have commented on that beautiful face, noting the dark hues of her complexion. It has been suggested that Mary appeared to Juan Diego as an Indian woman. That could be, but there is another possible explanation. Mary, of course, was a Hebrew woman and probably herself had black hair and dark skin. Perhaps what we have here is how Mary actually looked when she walked this earth , when was pregnant with Jesus.

It is very fitting that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Pro-Life movement as well as being patroness of the unborn. On the 25th of March 2014, feast of the Annunciation, where we celebrate Mary accepting to be the Mother of the Emmanuel, together with some of my classmates in Canada, I spent the morning praying outside the abortion clinic in Ottawa. It was a day I will never forget. It was an act of reparation and prayer for those who for various reasons felt they could not say ‘Yes’ to the gift of life. Some people held pictures of our Lady of Guadalupe, I remember imploring her maternal heart to change the heart of those who went to the clinic. When I went home, I cried bitterly for the women and babies who went into that clinic and for the babies who never made it out of the clinic. As a woman, my maternal heart suffered with these women whose lives had been changed forever. All I could do was pray.

Our Lady of Advent, chalk drawing by Sr.
Marie Paul O' Brien, pddm

The longing for Christ is deeply rooted in the innermost part of the human soul and we yearn for it, whether we dare to admit it or not. All through our lives we seek the strong union which we felt in the womb of our mother, the most intimate of relationships. Here I share with you a beautiful chalk sketching from one of our sisters, Sr. Marie Paul, pddm. She explains: “It's Mary pondering what her Child would look like. I tried hard to turn the face of Jesus toward the face of Mary thinking what his Mother looks like but I was totally unable to turn his head to look up.  So I gave up trying. The best I could do, to get closer to my idea from meditation was for him to embrace the heart beating with love for Him.” It is a beautiful image which reflects what the Advent journey is for me, a time to slow down and listen to the beating heart of Christ!

My prayer for all this Christmas is, in the words of Ann Lewin, that we may ‘be midwives for the love of God, cradling that strength born in fragility, delivering healing to the crying world.” The greatest transformations happen in the silence and the stillness of the hidden life. Trust God is doing wonderful things with your life!