Dec 12 – Memorial for Our Lady of Guadalupe
Guadalupe is, strictly speaking, the name of a picture, but the name was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town which grew up around the church. It marks the shrine, it occasions the devotion, it illustrates Our Lady. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of a woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign with a supporting angel under the crescent. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico, it may represent certain Aztec sounds.
Its tradition is long-standing and constant, and in sources both oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. The Blessed Virgin appeared on Saturday, 9 December 1531 to a 55-year-old neophyte named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac Hill to hear Mass in Mexico City. She sent him to Bishop Zumarraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop’s answer.
The bishop did not immediately believe the messenger, had him cross-examined and watched, and he finally told him to ask the lady who said she was the mother of the true God for a sign. The neophyte agreed readily to ask for the sign desired, and the bishop released him.
Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle who was dying of fever. Indian medicine had failed and Bernardino seemed at death’s door. At daybreak on Tuesday 12 December 1531, Juan ran to nearby St. James’ convent to ask for a priest. To avoid the apparition and the untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said, “What road is this thou takest son?”
A tender dialogue ensued. She reassured Juan about his uncle, to whom she also briefly appeared and instantly cured. Calling herself “Holy Mary of Guadalupe”, she told Juan to return to the bishop. He asked for the sign he required. Mary told him to go to the rocks and gather roses. Juan knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma (a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians), he came back. The Holy Mother rearranged the roses, and told him to keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the bishop.
When Juan met with Zumarraga, Juan offered the sign to the bishop. As he unfolded his cloak, the roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell out. Juan was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him. The life-size figure of the Virgin Mary, just as Juan had described her, was glowing on the tilma. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop’s chapel, and soon after, carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.
Painters have not understood the laying on of the colours. They have deposed that the “canvas” was not only unfit but unprepared, and they have marvelled at the apparent oil, water, distemper, etc. colouring in the same figure. They are left in equal admiration for the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They, and other artists, find the proportions perfect for a maiden of fifteen. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing. There is flight and rest in the eager supporting angel. The chief colours are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.
The clergy, secular and regular, has been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the bishops fostering it, even to the extent of making a protestation of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made 12 December a holiday of obligation with an octave, and ordered a special Mass and Office.
– Patron Saint Index
‘Console my people, console them’ says your God.
‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double punishment for all her crimes.’
A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low. Let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
A voice commands, ‘Cry!’ and I answered, ‘What shall I cry?’” – ‘All flesh is grass and its beauty like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on them. (The grass is without doubt the people.) The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God remains for ever.’
Go up on a high mountain, joyful messenger to Zion. Shout with a loud voice, joyful messenger to Jerusalem. Shout without fear, say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’ Here is the Lord coming with power, his arm subduing all things to him. The prize of his victory is with him, his trophies all go before him. He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’
“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”
Earlier this week, we read about how “with The Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). It’s a difficult concept to grasp. Our human understanding is mostly limited to events that happen within our lifetime – where do I see myself in 5 years? What are we doing this weekend? How do I get through the week? How do I get the kids through college? We plan for the next 5 years, 10 years at most. But God sees generations ahead, connecting the dots forward for his faithful beloved. He allows us to ‘glimpse’ at His plans by grace. We, in turn, accept this grace in faith.
As I box up the memories in my old house, I’ve been overcome by both melancholy and wonder. God has moved me through so many places. I’ve lived so many lives. At every step, I feel He has laid the foundations for the next 5-10 years. I could have never planned things out myself to the degree that He has done, with the kind of attention to detail that He has seen to. Looking back, things have happened exactly as they were supposed to. Surrendering my fate to God, He put in place all that I needed even before I realized what was necessary.
In today’s gospel reading, Mary is called ‘full of grace’ because she was given a glimpse of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind. Though she saw it only as a faint sketch, she accepted the role she was to play in full confidence. When the Holy Spirit prompts us, it is manifest as a kind of ‘feeling’ that there is something we have to do or that we are meant to be some place. This sense of ‘knowing’ speaks in soft tones. You have to strain to hear it. Some people call it intuition. Scripture calls it the “gentle whisper” of the Holy Spirit (1 Kings 19:12). Not all of us will heed its promptings. Sometimes, we let human judgment get the better of us. We overthink things, overanalyze the costs and benefits. Witness Eve’s more calculated response. Eve was shown the beauty of God’s paradise yet still reached for more. The Spirit’s promptings were there; she knew what she was not supposed to do. But she chose against it.
‘Grace’ is a gift of faith. If we believe, God lets us see the broad sketches. It might only be an inkling, a feeling that this is the right path, as impossible as it might seem. But often, that’s all that is needed, a feeling. He asks us to trust Him. And in so doing, we gain a life we would never even have dreamed for ourselves.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern His purpose for us, even if that means upending the normalcy of our daily life.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for helping us to connect the dots forward. We give thanks for His providence, that even before we knew what was needed, He was already laying the foundation of our life ahead.