Each year on December 12th, the Church, especially the Mexican Church, celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This day commemorates the apparitions the Virgin Mary made to Juan Diego (Cuauhtlatoatzin), an Indian living in Mexico, in December 1531; her image being miraculously impressed upon his tilma (cloak).
Growing-up in a Mexican-American household and parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe was always present. Mexican culture embraces her. The people’s devotion to her is very great.
In our house, this devotion was not as intense as perhaps other households. However, Our Lady was a very important person. Instead of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we adorned our living room with a very large portrait of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
We would go to Mass on her feast day on December 12th, but I do not recall going every time. We certainly did not get up at the crack of dawn for the Las Mañanitas processions. But we were reminded that it was the 12th of December and we knew what that meant.
In recent years I have read a little more deeply about the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I learned that the entire image is filled with Aztec symbolism. The Aztecs would have recognized the symbols immediately. This probably helped in their conversion to Christianity. It mystifies me that Juan Diego’s tilma is still intact and how the image upon it is inexplicable by science.
There are two things about the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe that have stuck with me through all these years, both relayed to me by my mother. The first was her impression of Juan Diego. Here was this devoted Indian man, the least in colonial Spanish society, who was selected by Mary to be her representative to the Archbishop of Mexico. Juan Diego did not feel himself worthy to even come into the presence of the Archbishop. He had no idea who this mysterious lady was. I can still hear my mother quoting Juan Diego trying to decline Our Lady’s requests, “Yo soy la cola, la ala.” (“I am the tail, the wing.”); meaning that he did not feel himself worthy to take on these tasks.
The second thing she told me was how a certain hymn always made her emotional, in two ways I think; one because it was a devotion to Mary and second because she lost her own mother at an early age. The name of that hymn is “Adios Reina del Cielo” (“Farewell Queen of Heaven”).
I doubt if I will make the Guadalupe celebrations this year, but I will be aware that it is the 12th of December. I will honor Our Lady of Guadalupe in my own way, I will honor Saint Juan Diego, and I will probably have “Adios Reina del Cielo” ringing in my ears.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for Us.
Copyright 2017, Michael T Carrillo