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Our Lady of Guadalupe
One of the neat things about studying Church History is that one becomes familiar with different symbols, activities, and literature of other parts of Christianity. Often I see something from a Christian tradition other than my own and, since I have studied Church History, I recognize it. That leads to this week’s article. As more and more Mexicans move into America, they are bringing a religious symbol with them. I have seen this on t-shirts, bumper stickers, I saw a large decal on someone’s back windshield and even tattooed on someone’s arm. And now that you are reading about it, you will probably notice it somewhere in the next month. That symbol is referred to as the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Now, if you are Protestant you will almost certainly not know about the image, and I am not trying to convince you to accept the image (I am Protestant myself). But as an article which informs people, by knowing about this, you will be able to understand it when you see it. First let me describe it. The image consists of a young woman, who Catholics hold to be Mary the Mother of Jesus. She is wearing what looks like a teal or blue-green robe with the hood on her head. Her hands are folded as if in prayer. Around the young woman are rays, they look like the kind of rays you would draw around the sun. At her feet is what looks like a little boy holding a piece of cloth over his head; a horn is on each side of the cloth. (See the image below)
The story behind the image. Go back to 1521 in present-day Mexico. The capital of the Aztecs has just been defeated by the Spaniards. Due to the nature of that time, Spain has sent Catholic priests, monks, and even a bishop in order to convert the Aztecs.
From different accounts: In 1525, an Aztec named Quauhtlatoatzin is baptized and is given the name of Juan Diego; he lives in a small village near present-day Mexico City. On a Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to Mass. As he walked by a hill called Tepeyac, he heard beautiful music. A cloud developed, and in the cloud he saw a young woman who was brown-skinned like Juan, who Mexicans believe to have been the Virgin Mary.
Mary told Juan to go to the bishop and tell him to build a chapel there. Juan went to the bishop and relayed the message, but the bishop demanded a sign. At this same time, Juan’s uncle became sick. Juan was walking along after seeing his uncle, and decided to walk around the hill in order to avoid Mary. She appeared to Juan anyway. He told Mary about his uncle; she appeared to his uncle and healed him. He told her about the sign the bishop demanded. Mary told Juan to go into the rocks and gather roses. He knew it was not the time for roses (being December), but went anyway. He found roses and gathered them in his poncho, know as a “tilma.” He left to see the bishop. Once he was in front of the bishop, he unfolded his tilma and the roses fell out. He immediately saw the bishop kneeling before him. He realized that an image of the young girl he had seen was imprinted on the front of his tilma.
This is the image which Mexicans venerate as the patron saint of Mexico. And so now, when you see it on a car or a shirt or even as a tattoo, you will know what it means. In addition, many American Catholics also hold this image as sacred.
©2008 Mark Nickens
Questions/comments contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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