Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A poor Indian Juan Diego was a 57 year old widower who lived in a small village near Mexico City. On Saturday morning December 9, 1531, he was on his way to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady. He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds. A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga. The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.
Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego:
"Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy?"
“My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth...and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me.”
Juan Diego went to the bishop who told him to have the lady give him a sign. About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill. Poor Diego tried to avoid the lady but she appeared to him and assured him that his uncle would recover and she provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma. Juan Diego told his story to the Spanish bishop, who instructed him to return and ask the Lady for a miraculous sign to prove her claim. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather some flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. It was winter and no flowers bloomed, but on the hilltop Diego found flowers of every sort, and the Virgin herself arranged them in his tilma, or peasant cloak. When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees. On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary miraculously imprinted exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac. It was December 12, 1531.
The Image on the Tilma
The imprint of Mary on the tilma is striking, and the symbolism was primarily directed to Juan Diego and the Aztecs. Mary appears as a beautiful young Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands folded in prayer in reference to the Almighty God. Her rose dress, adorned with a jasmine flower, eight petal flowers, and nine heart flowers symbolic to the Aztec culture, is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized life and unity. The stars on the mantle signified the beginning of a new civilization. La Morenita appeared on the day of the winter solstice, considered the day of the sun's birth; the Virgin's mantle accurately represents the 1531 winter solstice! Mary stands in front of and hides the sun, but the rays of the sun still appear around her, signifying she is greater than the sun god, the greatest of the native divinities, but the rays of the sun still bring light. Twelve rays of the sun surround her face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature.
Most important are the black maternity band, a jasmine flower, and a cross that are present in the image. Mary wore a black maternity band, signifying she was with child. At the center of the picture, overlying her womb, is a jasmine flower in the shape of an Indian cross, which is the sign of the Divine and the center of the cosmic order to the Aztec. This symbol indicated that the baby Mary carried within her, Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, is Divine and the new center of the universe. On the brooch around her neck was a black Christian cross, indicating she is both a bearer and follower of Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died on the Cross to save mankind. The image signified Mary bringing her Son Christ to the New World through one of their own.
Our Lady's apparition was an event of great significance for Native Americans. Nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time. Our Lady of Guadalupe shows us God's love for the poor and for the unborn. Our Lady said to Juan Diego, "I will give all my protection to the people. I am the merciful Mother of all mankind. Am I not your fountain of life." Our Lady of Guadalupe protects all her children, born and unborn.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, we entrust all the names we receive through this prayer ministry to you, our most loving and merciful Mother.