Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Nican Mopohua (7)

Juan Diego’s uncle was supposed to be very sick, remember?

Juan Diego gave first priority to his mission. He trusted Our Lady with his uncle’s health.

However, after showing the site to Bishop Zumarraga, he decided it was time to move on and to check on his uncle.

He asked the Bishop for his leave, and the Bishop sent him home, but not alone, rather, with an escort.

The narrative mentions the escort only as a special honor, but it is very reasonable to think the Bishop was still being cautious and investigating the details of the event with due care, so it is rather safe to presume these escorts were tasked with the verification of Juan Diego’s story with regards to his uncle and his health.

They were in for another surprise, because they did not only found Juan Bernardino in perfect health, but also, when Juan Diego finally told his uncle about the apparitions, his mission, and the assurance he received from Our Lady about his uncle’s health, Juan Bernardino replied:
203. His venerable uncle told him it was true, that precisely that moment, she deigned to heal him.

204. And that he had seen her, in the exact same form as she had deign to appear to his nephew.

205. And that she had also sent him to Mexico to see the Bishop.

206. And that, when he saw him, that he was to kindly manifest to him all the details of what he had seen.

207. And she had wondrously healed him.

208. And that she kindly requested, as a favor, her precious image to be known and called precisely as the Ever Virgin Saint Mary or Guadalupe.

Again, we need to understand Aztec culture.

Few cultures in the world have been more respectful of elders than the Aztecs. Even being merely disrespectful to an elder was considered a capital crime and yes, it carried the death penalty.

By appearing to Juan Diego’s elderly uncle and by giving him the precise title with which she wanted to be know, Our Lady was sending the clear message that God did not consider ALL the old ways of the Aztecs to be wrong, that there were many good things in their culture and their way of life, and that these good things were to be honored, preserved and perfected with the Gospel.

Now, it is fairly safe to assume “Guadalupe” was not the original form, which was probably “Coatlaxopeuh”, literally “who crushes the snake”, of quite obvious meaning. However, it is providential that this was the final form of the name.

It is clear that “Guadalupe” is not Nahuatl, as the language didn’t have consonant phonics for G or D. But it was not originally Spanish either.

Although there was already a Marian image called “Guadalupe” in Spain, the name comes from the Arabic “Wadi Al-Lub”, which means more or less “river of black pebbles”.

The Marian image was called that because of the name of a village, where the image was found, after being “lost” for several centuries.

The image was originally given to the Spanish church in the late 6th century, however, it was “hidden” shortly after the Moorish invasion early in the 8th century.

The image was found again in 1326, when the war to reclaim Spain from the Moors was making good progress, so the image became very popular, and associated with Spanish national identity, just as this new “Guadalupe” would become for the Mexican people.

So here we have a Jewish girl, with a Muslim name, Mother of the Christian God, known and beloved in Spain, who will become the very soul of the new-born Mexican nation.

Quite fitting for the one who wanted “to be a compassionate mother to all of you, yours and of all the people who live together in this land, and of all the other people of different ancestries, those who love me, those who cry to me, those who seek me, those who honor me by putting their trust in my intercession”.

The narrative concludes as follows:
209. They immediately bring Juan Bernardino before the lord Bishop, to give his account and testify before him.

210. The Bishop received both him and his nephew in his house, for some time,

211. for the duration of the construction of the little shrine of the Sovereign Lady, there at the Tepeyac, where she appeared to Juan Diego.

212. The Bishop moved the precious and venerated image of the beautiful Girl from Heaven to the mayor church.

213. He kindly took it out of his palace, of his oratory, where it as, so that all the people could see and admire her marvelous image.

214. Absolutely all the city went to see and admire her precious and beloved image.

215. They came to acknowledge its divine origin,

216. to be honored to present before it their prayers,

217. and they all very much admired the form, so manifestly divine, which she chose to bestow on them the grace to appear,

218. as it s a fact that no person on this world was privileged to paint the essence of her precious and beloved image.

The story doesn’t end with a particularly high note. The Bishop carried out Our Lady’s request, and people were interested in visiting the image.

However, veiled between these two lines and in the history of what happened next, lies a most significant fact.

Surely among those who came to see the image and who recognized the divine origin of the image were the Amoxhuaque of old.

They understood God was giving them a message, and they accepted the message, even if the message was that it was time for their religion to give way to the Gospel.

The Amoxhuaque brought back the message to their people and shortly after the “Guadalupe event”, the natives began to request Baptism by the millions.

And to this day, with the impressive scientific progress we’ve accomplished, a satisfactory, natural explanation of the image and the preservation of the tilma is still pending.

But even more significant and wonderful than that is the faith of the people, and the unity the Lady of the Tepeyac inspires in her children.

May her powerful, and loving intercession guard our faith. May our father among the saints, St. Juan Diego Cuauhutlatoatzin pray for us all. Amen.

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