When Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in 16th century Mexico, all seemed lost. From rampant corruption causing human rights violations of every kind to widespread death caused by European diseases, Bishop Zumarraga, the first Bishop of Mexico, knew that he needed to bring Jesus to those who did not believe or know him. While the Spaniards of his day in leadership professed to be Catholic, their conduct and actions were far from it. Bishop Zumarraga led a Eucharistic procession with his priests and faithful during which there was a failed assassination attempt on him by the governor. It was from his experience of the Corpus Christi Procession and near martyrdom that Bishop Zumarraga had the courage and heavenly wisdom to implore God for a direct intervention. He wrote to the King of Spain stating that “Unless the hand of God intervenes directly in Mexico, all will be lost.” Mary heard her son’s plea and came to her children in an unexpected, yet perfect way. She inspired millions of her children in the New World to come to the altar of her Son. Her message was one of Eucharistic Revival to a world that was lost and hopeless.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only picture of Mary that we have directly from heaven. She miraculously appeared on the Tilma/cloak of St. Juan Diego in the presence of Bishop Zumarraga. Her image was rich in meaning to the people of that time and culture leading them to Jesus through the Church. In the Tilma, we see Mary as the Mother of God teaching us how to adore her Son. One can easily say that the Tilma is a catechesis on the spirituality of Eucharistic faith and devotion through the personal witness of Mary. Let us briefly detail a few things that Our Lady of Guadalupe is teaching us today.
First, Mary appeared as the Mother of God. On the Tilma, we see Mary, whose hair is down, indicating in Aztec Society that she is an unmarried virgin. We then notice that she has a black belt tied around her waist. This belt is moved up just below her breasts indicating that she is pregnant. Lastly, over her womb is a four-petaled flower. This flower indicated for the Aztecs that she was pregnant with the priest-Son of God. This priest-son for them was Quetzalcoatl, an ancient deity who was prophesied to return and teach a new way of worship. Mary was showing them that this prophecy could never be fulfilled by their Aztec deity, but that it was fulfilled by her Son, Jesus, who had come to the New World to teach a new way of worship. Simply put, on the Tilma, Mary is a virgin, pregnant with the Son of God who has come to save us.
Second, Mary’s face is serene and downcast. Many have incorrectly assumed that she is sad. This is far from the truth. Mary’s face is downcast as a sign of reverence. In that society, it was improper to look into the eyes of one who was more noble than yourself. As a sign of respect and submission, children would not look their parents or teachers in the eyes. Mary is looking down because she is in the presence of her Son, Jesus, her Savior. Through example, Mary is teaching us that true adoration begins with humble reverence and awe of the presence of Jesus in our midst. True adoration necessarily means bowing our heads in reverential prayer, does it not?
Third, Mary is dancing in the Tilma. Yes, dancing! In her folded hands is a brown maraca. Her left knee is bent upwards as she is hopping and dancing in a similar way that Aztec virgins did, praising their principal deity, the sun. The Aztecs believed they were the people of the sun who were entrusted with sacrificing human hearts in order that the sun may remain victorious over the moon and darkness. They believed that human sacrifice brought life to the sun and the whole world. These virgins danced with hope that the sun would rise after the longest and darkest night of the year. Our Lady of Guadalupe was inculturating this dance to teach us that adoration is one of praise and movement.
While we strive to offer humbled and contrite hearts, we are also called to rejoice, knowing that the Lord is truly near. Mary demonstrates to us that prayer involves our whole being, not just our spirit. Many times, our deepest prayers are offered in the darkest moments in our lives as a cry for help when hope is fleeting. Every time we come to pray, we do so knowing that every promise of Christ is true. A true revival evokes joy, immense praise, and gratitude. Revival is also rooted in the depths of our being, where we experience misery and pains that impel us to turn outward and seek the Mercy of God. Our Lady of Guadalupe’s example inspires our every prayer, thought, and action so that everything within us will praise the Lord.
Lastly, let us not forget that the only request of Our Lady of Guadalupe was to have a church built at Tepeyac, where she first appeared to St. Juan Diego, that all may come to know her Son. She desired to hear their cries and sadness in order to bring them to her Son, so that he might heal all their troubles, miseries and pains. Her miraculous image continues to tenderly welcome all who come to the church. She who is our Mother protects us in the hollow of her Mantle. She is the source of our joy, leading us to her Son. She accompanies us every time we come to adore her Son, and she witnesses to us how to approach him with reverence and praise.
We are called to be faithful to the Mass so we can be sent forth from the Mass with the Eucharistic Jesus within us to proclaim him to all. Let us not forget that the word Mass in Latin literally means to be sent. As we look forward to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in 2024 and the many pilgrimages and processions that will take place throughout our country leading up to that moment, let us be mindful of how Our Lady of Guadalupe is inspiring us to be like Bishop Zumarraga and St. Juan Diego: to become messengers of hers, that all may know her Son in the Church. Mary is calling us to work with our priests and bishops to make Jesus known and to give everyone an invitation to come and behold him. Christ is our Lord and King. Through true devotion to him in the Eucharist, at Mass, adoration, and public devotions like processions, we are transformed into his disciples who are sent to go out to the whole world, knowing that our labor in him is not in vain!
“Let us implore Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and Star of the New Evangelization, who has been chosen as the Patroness of the National Eucharistic Revival, to heal us of those things that afflict and hurt us so that we may be united in Jesus.”
As we continue in these years of Eucharistic Revival, let us also grow in Guadalupan reverence, humility, praise, and gratitude. Let us ask Our Lady to teach us to love Jesus as she does. Let us implore Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and Star of the New Evangelization, who has been chosen as the Patroness of the National Eucharistic Revival, to heal us of those things that afflict and hurt us so that we may be united in Jesus. May we kneel in adoration of her Son, that our hearts and minds may be raised to heaven. Through Mary, let us come more deeply to Jesus! Totus Tuus. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!