OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
AND ST JUAN DIEGO
by Mark Armstrong
Nearly 12 years after the Spanish landed and nine years after the end of hostilities, there had been only limited success with converting the Aztecs and other tribes to the Catholic faith. By 1531 there were few converts. The Spanish tried to translate, for the most part unsuccessfully, the tenets of the Faith to a people who did not have a written language. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly for all involved, that all changed 482 years ago today when a convert to the faith, Juan Diego, encountered Mary, the Mother of God.
Church of Santiago de Tlatelolco
(where Juan Diego attended)
Juan Diego — his indigenous name, Cuauhtlatoatzin, means “the eagle that talks” — was a widowed convert to Roman Catholicism on his way to Mass on December 8, 1531, Mary’s Immaculate Conception feast day. For several years Juan Diego, then in his mid-fifties, got up before dawn and walked fifteen miles, one way, to attend Mass. The stone church he attended (which still stands in Mexico City) was erected from the dismantled Aztec pyramid stones. As Juan Diego walked passed by Tepeyac Hill, a few miles from church, the sky became bright and he heard singing on top of the hill, like the songs of various birds.
At the end of the song, as Juan Diego looked toward the hill, he heard a woman call out to him. There, he saw a young lady whose clothes shone with the radiance of the sun. He prostrated himself in front of her. When she asked Juan where he was going, he replied that he was going to church to hear the sermons of the friars. The woman identified herself as “the eternally consummate virgin Saint Mary, mother of the very true deity, God, the giver of life, the creator of people, the ever present, the Lord of heaven and earth.” She then asked Juan Diego to relate to the bishop her wish for a Church to be built on that very spot, where she would attend to the “weeping and sorrows of you and all the people of this land, and of the various peoples who love me….”
Juan Diego rushed the final miles on foot and waited for hours to see Bishop Juan Zumarraga. The friars were reluctant. After all, Juan Diego was a poor Indian with sandals, a walking stick and no appointment to see the bishop. After waiting patiently, Juan Diego was finally ushered in. When he related his story to Bishop Zumarraga, Juan Diego, through a translator, was told that he needed a sign to prove that this account was true. A series of other events happened to Juan Diego over the next three days that would take too long here to explain, but then on December 12, 1531, Mary provided a sign that convinced the bishop that Juan Diego spoke the truth.
When Mary appeared to Juan Diego 482 years ago today, she directed him to pick some flowers from the top of Tepeyac hill, and to gather them in his tilma (a long cloak) to present to the bishop as proof of her miraculous presence. (The roses he found only were previously known to grow in Spain, not in Mexico, and certainly not in the dead of winter.) Juan Diego did as he was asked and the Blessed Mother even helped him lay the flowers in his tilma.
When Juan Diego returned to the bishop and opened his cloak to show the roses, the bishop and all those present were amazed and fell prostrate. The image of Our Blessed Mother was emblazoned on the tilma.
Our Lady of Guadaupe
Photography © by Mark Armstrong
The image was far more than a mere picture of a beautiful lady. Her dress and manner told a story that all the Aztec Indians could understand. In one miraculous image, Mary explained her role in the Church and the way to God. This is how the image helped them to understand:
Her hands are folded in supplication; her posture indicating that she is interceding for us at the throne of the God. The luminous light surrounding the Lady is reminiscent of the “woman clothed with the sun” of Revelation 12:1. The rays of the sun would also be recognized by the Aztecs and other indigenous people as a symbol of their highest god, Huitzilopochtli. Thus, the lady comes forth hiding but not extinguishing the power of the sun. She is now going to announce the God who is greater than their sun god.
Mary is standing upon the moon. Again, the symbolism is that of the woman of Revelation 12:1 who has the “moon under her feet.” The moon for the Aztecs was the god of the night. By standing on the moon, she shows that she is more powerful than the god of darkness.
The eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe are looking down with humility and compassion. This was a sign to the native people that she was not a god since in their iconography the gods stare straight ahead with their eyes wide open.
The angel supporting the Lady testifies to her royalty. To the Aztecs only kings, queens and other dignitaries would be carried on the shoulders of someone. The mantle of the Lady is blue-green or turquoise. To the native people, this was the color of the gods and of royalty. The stars on Mary’s mantle show that she comes from heaven.
The gold-encircled cross brooch under the neck of the Lady’s robe is a symbol of sanctity. The girdle or bow around her waist is a sign of her virginity, but it also has several other meanings. The bow appears as a four-petaled flower. To the native Indians this was the nahui ollin, the flower of the sun, a symbol of plenitude. For them, this was the symbol of creation and new life. The high position of the bow and the slight swelling of the abdomen show that the Lady is with child.
By Mary’s dress, the image shows that she is of royalty from heaven and was both a virgin and “with child.” Thus, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas, has become a powerful symbol for the pro-life movement.
- See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2013/12/mark-armstrong-lady-of-guadalupe-come-to-our-aid/#sthash.xbkWhBw0.dpuf
JUAN DIEGO AND OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
by Diana von Glahn
For this section on the symbolism and meaning of Our Lady’s tilma, I recommend Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego by Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, an expert on Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Today, we are going to look at the tilma itself and its symbolism and miraculous characteristics.
Juan Diego’s Miraculous Tilma
Woven out of cactus fiber, exposed to the smoke and light from hundreds of thousands of candles, and the humid and salty air of Mexico City for more than 120 years without any protection, Juan’s tilma should have disintegrated centuries ago. Still, almost 500 years after Mary put her image on it, we can still see it at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City.
In the 1780s, experiments were made in which similar cactus-fiber cloaks were woven by some of the finest Indian weavers and then painted. They were placed in buildings around Tepeyac Hill, to mimic the conditions in which Juan’s tilma was kept. After only seven years, the colors on these mantles had flaked off or faded away and the cactus fibers were disintegrating. These cloaks had a 20-year lifespan.
While the manner in which Mary left her image on Juan’s tilma is miraculous in and of itself—it is not painted on or imprinted in any way humanly possible—the symbolism in the image presents a much more detailed and layered message than a mere portrait of a woman. Mary is shown standing atop a crescent moon and surrounded by the rays of the sun. Her head is bowed, her eyes are downcast, her hands are clasped in prayer, and she has a slight smile on her lips. Her rose-colored gown has floral designs, a black girdle is tied around her waist, and she wears a cloak the color of the sky and is adorned with gold stars. An angel holds the hem of her garments.
The Blessed Mother’s image on Juan’s tilma is like an icon, full of symbolism and meaning. Juan and his people would have understood the image according to their own beliefs and traditions. As Aztecs, they would have worshipped the gods and goddesses of the elements: Quetzalcoatl, the morning star; Huitzilopochtli, god of the sun; Coyolxauhqui and Meztli, goddesses of the moon; or Tonatiuh, god of the sun. But Mary stands atop the moon, in front the sun, and the stars and sky make up part of her clothing. Her blue cloak is the traditional color of the gods and royalty for the Aztecs! She is showing Juan and his people that she is greater than the “gods” and these elements! And yet, her bowed head, downcast eyes, and folded hands show that she is not the greatest, that she bows before One greater than she, the “Him” of whom she spoke: her Son, present in her womb!
Here are some other symbolic meanings of the image on Juan’s tilma:
The rays that surround our Blessed Mother symbolize supreme power.
The crescent moon symbolizes Mary’s perpetual virginity and hearkens back to Revelation 12:1, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet…”
Blue symbolizes eternity, immortality, divine contemplation, and godliness of conversation.
The gold border around Mary’s mantle symbolizes her royal dignity.
The stars are reminiscent of heaven, identifying Mary as Queen of Heaven.
The eight-pointed stars symbolize baptism, and the gifts of new birth that God gave Juan and all Americans through Mary.
The stars on Mary’s mantle are in the same pattern as the stars that were present over Tenochtitlan just before sunrise on December 12, 1531. They are seen in reverse, as if seen from outside the dome of the heavens (God’s perspective!).
The rose-colored gown, similar in design to what Our Lady would have worn during her life, is a symbol of martyrdom for the Faith and of divine love. It also represents the color of the dawn of a new era.
The cuffs of the gown are lined with what looks like white ermine, a symbol of purity and honor without stain. (Also, it was cold in December!)
The floral designs on the Blessed Mother’s gown have an have an astounding array of meanings, part of which include new life for the Aztecs, transforming their culture from one of human sacrifice to one of love, founded in her Son.
The black girdle around her waist would have been a clear symbol to the Aztecs that Mary was pregnant.
Directly below Mary’s belt is a small, four-petalled flower that is not found anywhere else on Mary’s tunic. This is the nahui ollin, the jasmine flower, called the Flower of the Sun by the Aztecs, a symbol of plentitude, representing the four compass directions. For the Aztecs, this flower symbolized the center of the universe, and placed above Mary’s womb, they would have read it to say that a new sun was born of this Virgin, and would bring them new life in baptism.
The gold brooch with a cross at her neck identifies Mary as sacred, like a holy temple, and protected against all profanation. The Aztecs would have also remembered seeing the symbol of the cross on the flags of Cortez’s army.
The angel’s red, white, and blue feathered wings symbolize loyalty, faith, and fidelity. His red tunic symbolizes love for the Virgin, and his position indicates that Mary has been raised above the angels, as Mother of God.
Some other amazing facts about the tilma that have been discovered over the centuries:
In 1785, a worker accidentally spilled nitric acid on the top right corner of the tilma. While it should have disintegrated the cactus fibers, it only left a small stain.
On November 14, 1921, a bomb detonated beneath the tilma, destroying the nearby altar, bending an iron crucifix, and breaking the marble floor and windows 150 meters from the explosion. The tilma and the glass that covered it—which was normal, non-bomb resistant glass—remained completely unharmed. The crucifix can still be seen in the museums of the shrine in Mexico City (and on this video).
In 1929, it was discovered that Mary’s eyes reflect Juan Diego as Our Lady saw him. Further examinations by Dr. José Aste Tonsmann revealed not only Juan’s image, but those of the Bishop and his retinue kneeling before the image. The reflections even show a distortion, matching the curvature of Mary’s eye as well as the presence of the triple reflection (Samson-Purkinje effect) characteristic of all live human eyes. (Watch this six-part presentation by Dr. Aste, produced for the 2009 Marian Congress).
Infrared rays reveal that the tilma has no traces of paint and that the fabric has not been treated with any kind of technique.
The image changes color slightly according to the angle of the viewer, a phenomenon known as iridescence, a technique that cannot be reproduced with human hands.
AT LEAST WE CAN PRAY FOR THEM!!
what else can we do?
what else can we do?
Somewhere around Maaloula, Syria, 12 nuns are cowering in fear of their Islamist kidnappers. They may be being beaten, raped or beheaded one by one. But who cares? We've got Nigella Lawson's coke habit to tickle our itching ears. Mother Superior Pelagia Sayyaf and 11 of her sisters were abducted at gunpoint from St Tecla Orthodox monastery and taken hostage by an army of "rebels", along with the orphans who were being fostered and cared for. But who cares? We've got the identity of Tom Daley's handsome new boyfriend to fantasise about. The international community and world governments are indifferent to the plight of the nuns of the St Tecla convent. And so are most people in Britain. Churches, monasteries and convents throughout Syria are being razed, desecrated and pillaged. Maaloula is being cleansed of Christians. But who cares? We've got celebrity drugs and gay sex to gossip about. Of course, if these were gays and lesbians being kidnapped, beaten and tortured by Islamists, we'd soon have celebrity declamations and government condemnation. There'd be Twitter campaigns and Facebook pages dedicated to their freedom, and the media would full of Stephen Fry demanding justice. But these are only nuns. And no one really gives a shit about Christians. We've got Nigella's coke and Tom's boyfriend to titillate us.