12 December 2016

Who painted it?



Today's readings:

  • Zechariah 2:10-13
  • Luke 1:26-38

In Douay, RSV, and NABRE with other Mass texts.

Let all flesh be silent at the presence of the Lord: for he is risen up out of his holy habitation.
Zechariah 2:13

Today is the feast of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. By the Roman Church she is designated as the Patroness of the Americas and, so important is this feast to certain communities that, on the DL, of course, she is even commemorated by some Orthodox in the WR, and perhaps in the ER.

The image on the cloth looks very much like the image described in St John vision, which is an alternative reading for our feast:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Rev 12:1-2

The miraculous image on the cloth weaves in such cunning ways the attributes of the Mother of God and the deities the local Aztecs would have known. The symbolism is easy to read for them although we - and their Spanish teachers - might miss it. And there are many more miraculous points to the image. My favorite being that if you photographically enlarge the eyes of the Virgin, you find that there are human images reflected in those eyes: It is believed to be the images of Juan Diego, Bishop Juan de Zummaraga, Juan Gonzales, the interpreter and others.

All of this may sound really quite surprising to you and decidedly unscientific, and even just clearly superstitious. These words are all useful if you don't want to say "miraculous".  I prefer to say "miraculous".

In all her apparitions, as approved by the Church, Mary has appeared to the powerless - be they starving Irish, or oppressed Indians, Christians oppressed by Muslim invaders, or else the poor of Portugal or France.  Always Mary appears to the weakest, the least and not always to their benefit: sometimes they are abused for their visions, sometimes they ridiculed and scorned by their families and neighbors. They may be, for a time, rejected by the Church. But always she reminds them that, though they are poor in the eyes of the world, they are, in her heart, richly blessed beyond measure.

I wonder why the rich never get that message? I can't imagine we don't need it.

Maybe, though, we don't want it?