“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…” (Rev. 12)
This story begins in a very dark place. It was time of sin, suffering, and death, when the Aztecs sacrificed human beings to an idol that required human blood. In other words, a time not so different from our own, when millions of unborn children are sacrificed on the altar of “choice” to the idol of death. It was in this dark period of history, in the sixteenth century, that the Blessed Virgin Mary intervened for humanity. She was sent by God to defeat the culture of death at that time in Mexico. Like the “Woman” in Revelation, “clothed in the sun, with moon at her feet,” on December 9, 1531, she appeared to a poor man of no importance or influence, one of Mary’s “little ones,” Juan Diego. The beautiful young woman, whose clothing indicated that she was pregnant, called him by name as a mother would, “Juanito” – “little Juan.” She spoke to Juan:
“I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the perfect and always Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of heaven and earth.”
The Blessed Mother then requested that Juan Diego go to his bishop and ask that a church be built in her honor, in which she would show —
“all my love, compassion and protection. I am your Mother full of mercy and love for you and all those who love me, trust in me, and have recourse to me. I will hear their complaints, and I will comfort their affliction, and their sufferings.”
However, when Juan repeated her words to Bishop Zumarraga, the bishop, fearing an illusion, was skeptical, and sent Juan away. But in his heart Bishop Zumarraga prayed, asking God for a sign of Castillian Roses, which only grew in the bishop’s native country of Spain.
She appeared again to Juan Diego and finally, early in the morning of December 12th, the Blessed Mother asked him to return to the bishop. She instructing him first to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill “and pick the flowers that you find there and bring them to me.” Although, it was too cold and dry for flowers to grow, Juan obediently climbed the hill and discovered beautiful, sweet-smelling roses growing there, which he gathered up into his tilma – a sort of working cloak made of cactus fiber. Our Lady then, with her own hands, carefully arranged the roses in his tilma. She told Juan to give them to the bishop as a sign that he should build the church.
After running all the way to the bishop’s residence, Juan was made to wait for hours by some servants, who, curious about what he held so closely in his tilma, tried to force Juan to show them. Finally, they informed the bishop that Juan was waiting, and Juan rushed to the bishop, who was meeting with other people in the room, and he unfolded his cloak. The roses, still covered with dew, tumbled to the floor, revealing on the tilma the beautiful image of the Blessed Mother. The bishop and the others fell to their knees.
The Indians, upon seeing the miraculous image, recognized the rich symbolism contained within it as coming from heaven. Thus, they converted by the millions, and their religion of human sacrifice was ended.
The tilma miraculously exists to this day, though the cactus fiber should have disintegrated after forty years. In the past century, even when a load of dynamite was exploded just below it the blast severely damaged everything around it, but did not touch the image. There is no paint or pigment on the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is an “Acheiropoieta,” a Greek word meaning: “made without human hands.” Like other acheiropoieta, such as the Shroud of Turin, and the Veil of Manoppello, there is no scientific explanation for the image’s existence, except, that it was made by the hand of God, “the true God, from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of Heaven and earth.” Images such as these are ongoing miracles – tangible signs of God’s mercy and love. Let us ask Him then, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to redeem this generation, mired in the deep darkness of sin, death, and idolatry, to bring Light and roses of life into the cold darkness — to save the lives of the unborn, and convert souls by turning them, once again, away from idols and back to the Face of her God.
By the presence of Mary, you made the desert bloom with flowers, –may the Blessed Virgin Mary’s love transform us into the image of Christ, her Son. Amen.