181. An in that instant, he opened his white tilma, in which he was carruing the flowers while standing.
182. In such way, at the time the various precious flowers were scattered,
183. In that very moment became and sign, and suddenly appeared the venerated image of the Ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, just as today we have the joy to preserve,
184. and keep there, in which is her favorite home, her shrine at the Tepeyac, which we call Guadalupe.
By the way, that expression in Nos. 183 and 184 is still true today, we still have the joy to keep the beloved image there at the Tepeyac. This is remarkable, because the material of the tilma should have decayed several centuries ago. These garments were not supposed to outlive their owners, let alone last for over 450 years.
More importantly, we need to understand the significance of images in the Aztec culture.
Aztec writing was ideographic. The Aztecs used images as the main means of communication and an image of the Mother of God was, for them, a perfect catechesis.
Now, the image came to be through a supernatural intervention from God. It was not just any other image, it was an image painted by the hand of God.
On top of that, the image appeared on a tilma. The tilma was the symbolic representation of its owner. Aztec marriage rite consisted in tying together the man’s tilma to the woman’s huipil.
A miraculous image on a tilma was a most eloquent and strong sign of the intimacy and reality of God’s presence among us. To the Aztecs, this was the equivalent of what had been for the Hebrews “The Word was made flesh, and placed His tent among us”.
There is, however, another level of significance of this image.
It is oftentimes overlooked that, despite the pomp and grandeur of the Aztec Emperor, his authority was limited to civil and military affairs.
Even the Emperor (Tlatoani) deferred to the religious authority of the priests or “Tlamatinime”.
The two highest offices among the priests was of the Teomama (plural Teomamaque), which literally means “God bearer”, and who did just that, they carried the idols around for religious ceremonies, which included consultation to the idol, a thing only them could perform.
Even higher than the Teomamaque was the Amoxhua (plural Amoxhuaque), which means “guardian of the codex”, and these where in charge of writing, reading and interpreting Aztec Scripture (Ideograms, remember?), the “Magisterium” of the Aztec religious system.
God intended the image of Our Lady to be the new codex of Aztec Scripture, and by sending the image specifically to Bishop Zumarraga, He was designating the Bishop as the new Amoxhua, legitimately replacing the ones from old, in a similar way Christian priesthood replaced the Levitic priesthood.
“Do what he says”, is the message Our Lady was giving our people with respect of the Bishop, “he legitimately speaks for my Son”.
But also, by sending the image through Juan Diego, he became the new Teomama, subordinated in authority to the Bishop, but not in dignity and value as a human person.
This was a very clear statement that God wanted the natives to be treated as equals to the conquistadores, and the message was given in such a way that it was eloquent to both sides of the equation.
185. As soon as the lord Bishop saw the image, he and all who were there fell on their knees struck with awe.
186. Then they raised to look closer at it, deeply moved and converted, with their hearts and thoughts in suspense.
187. The lord Bishop, with repentant tears, begged forgiveness for failing to immediately execute her holy will, her venerable breath, her beloved word.
188. And raising to his feet, he untied the garment from Juan Diego’s neck.
189. that, on which she deign to appear, where the Lady of Heaven is depicted,
190. and the, with great respect, he took it and left it in his oratory.
191. Still, Juan Diego spent one full day in the Bishop’s house, he kept him from going.
192. The next day, he said: “Let’s go! Show me where it is the will of the Queen of Heaven to have her shrine built”.
193. Immediately, people volunteered for the construction.