…a woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars.” This is the introduction to the image from Revelation 12 that is often read for Marian Feasts. In 1531, that image appeared (or at least one that fits pretty close).
Today we spent the day at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe which approximately 21 million pilgrims come every year. We attended Morning Prayer and Mass and got to go as close as guests can go.
We then had a presentation and tour of the Shrine by Monsignor Jorge Palencia, one of the priests at the Shrine who helps with their ministry.
Where to begin with an image that speaks in so many ways? Perhaps the best is to summarize that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared 5 times over the course of 4 days to an native Aztec Indian who had been baptized Juan Diego after the Spanish conquest. Human sacrifice was ended by the Spanish and attempts were made to evangelize, but language barriers prevented healing in the region. The Aztec believed that human sacrifice was necessary to sustain seasons and life cycles…but they were still happening. A crisis of faith and language paralyzed the region.
Until Juan Diego was sent by Our Lady to Juan Zumaraga, a Spanish Franciscan priest who requested a sign from Our Lady. When Juan Diego arrived on December 12 with Castilian roses (which don’t grow in winter or in Meso-America for that matter), the image appeared in his tilma which is still on display in the Shrine today.
Within ten years, 9 million Aztecs converted to Christianity because there was a common language. Our Lady of Guadalupe shows how inculturation ought to work. Remember the sun, moon, and serpent gods from the temples? Our Lady stands in front of the sun, on top of the moon, and wears the stars on a mantel of turquoise worn by royalty in Aztec culture. She is coming out of fog and is born by an angel with wings showing she is a messenger for one greater. She appears Mestizo, a mixture of Spanish and Aztec, and in her cloak are four leafed flowers which were used in the Aztec decorations. Its also a double sided image on front and back which I did not know. This allowed researchers to piece together that the stars match the constellations the Aztec would have seen. The two most prominent are virgo (the virgin) over the heart, leo (lion) over the womb where Jesus the Lion of Judah is, and draco (the serpent) who is off to the side and angled to be crushed by Our Lady.
There is so much to this image that a blog post can’t cover it all. Its my favorite apparition so I’ll keep myself from getting carried away and show some pictures of the Shrine since it is a series of buildings.
The first set are pictures from the first chapel built at the base of Tepeyac hill where the apparitions occurred.
Above: the church is built as requested at the bottom of the hill to indicate that there would be no need for artificial Pyramid hills to reach the gods. The True God wants to be close to His people.
Below: Juan Diego’s house next to the chapel where he served as sacristan for the chapel until he died.
Within twenty years or so, this chapel was too small so this one was built.
You can’t tell from this angle, but it has been sinking due to the lakes under Mexico City. They lifted it with hydraulics so hopefully it is stable, but walking in it is like walking on a ramp.
Above: interior and high altar.
Below: side adoration chapel
Some of us also climbed Tepeyac hill where Carmelites have a chapel. No photos were allowed in the chapel, but the view of Mexico City is nice.
Most of us went back again this evening because tomorrow we will re-station to a hotel near the US embassy for our second week. It was hard to say goodbye to the Shrine being only three blocks away. It has been enriching to be here so close to the image and experience the love of Our Lady. While the image is the central focus of the Shrine, Mary always points to Jesus Christ her Son. Mary leads us to Christ and know Him better. How could we not love her when Jesus chose to spend 30 years of His life with her?