Dear parish family and friends,
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this year falls on Monday, December 12, immediately following the Third Sunday of Advent. For many Catholics, especially Mexican and Mexican-Americans, this day is one of the most significant celebrations of the year. “La Morenita,” or the Brown Virgin, as Our Lady of Guadalupe is called affectionately, is the Patron of the Americas and undoubtedly our hemisphere’s most beloved manifestation of Mary, the Mother of God.
The feast commemorates the Blessed Mother’s four appearances in 1531 to St. Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant whose tilma, or cloak, bore-and continues to bear-the miraculous imprint of her image. What’s most significant about this image is that it depicts Mary as a mestiza, a person of both European and American ancestry, a divinely fashioned mixture of cultures. Clothed with the sun and wearing the cinta, the maternity band signifying that she is pregnant with Christ, Mary stands upon the moon, with head bowed and hands folded in prayer. She is born aloft by an angel of the Lord. The stars that adorn her cloak signify the coming of a new age, and the sunrays emanating from behind her symbolize the fact that she is the bearer greater than the sun itself. Altogether, the image offers a message of hope and liberation to the people undergoing conquest as well as to the Spanish invaders who were supposed to evangelize them.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a preeminent figure in the Advent season because she proclaims to us the Gospel, the Good News of our salvation in Christ. To the Aztec people who were oppressed at that time, and to all of us today, Our Lady of Guadalupe offers hope. She shows the nearness of God who listens to the cry of the poor and responds to their pains and sufferings. She proclaims powerfully the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, mestiza “Church” that came to be incarnated as the result of the sixteenth-century cultural confrontation between Spain and Mexico, and we might also say, she functions as a typus ecclesiae—a “type,” or “image,” or “model” of the Church in our days. Indeed, the image of Our Lady being pregnant with Christ, the Incarnate Word, surely mirrors what the Church herself is, and what we ourselves are called to be: similarly “pregnant” with the Incarnate Word for the life and salvation of the world. This, to me, is the most significant dimension of the image, and one of the most profound gifts that Mexican and Mexican-American spirituality offers to the whole Church today. More than ever, the Church is being called to be clearly multi-cultural and mestiza in form. To gaze contemplatively upon the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, then, is to gaze at what the Church is called to become.
How appropriate, then, that we celebrate Mary of Guadalupe in Advent! She reminds us that her Son desires always to be born anew in us. As the “woman clothed with the sun,” Our Lady of Guadalupe reflects the eschatological focus of Advent, the longing of humanity for the glorious return of the Lord at the end of time.
I am often moved by the strong devotion that many in our parish have for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Many people have experienced God’s mercy through her intercessions. I believe that the external signs of love we show for the Blessed Mother under this title manifests our interior longing for a God who is close to us, who identifies with us, and who has compassion for us.
This weekend, the rose candle will be lit in our Advent wreath in church, and priests will be wearing rose colored vestments as a sign of joy, signifying that the Lord’s coming is near. There’s also St. Juan Diego with all those roses in his tilma or cloak. What better way to experience that special joy than to celebrate it with Our Lady, Bearer of the Incarnate Word?
Que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham