The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Appearances by the Virgin Mary have been regularly reported throughout the centuries. Some enthusiastic believers go into great detail describing the experience. Yet the church is generally slow to affirm that an apparition is "worthy of pious belief." Ecclesial endorsements are rare. Vatican scrutiny is severe. In modern times, only ten apparitions have been officially deemed to exhibit characteristics "worthy of pious belief." The earliest of these is the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac (Jaroslav Pelikan in Mary Through the Centuries).
The significance of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego in 1531 does not hinge on the historicity of the apparition. The miracle is manifested in the remarkable transformation which it evoked within the people of Mexico and the Chicano culture. Guadalupe has become a powerful cultural energizer. Her appearance was crucial in restoring dignity, humanity and hope to a conquered people. Truly, it lifted up the lowly.
An interpretation of the Gospel text (Luke 1:26-38) for this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe can be understood in the same way. The miracle of the annunciation is not merely an historical event. It is a message addressed to every woman who searches for her own dignity and to every man on a quest for the meaning of his humanity. Our completeness comes in discovering the birth of the inner Christ in the womb of our hearts.
At various times, whispering angels suggest that we are blessed beyond expectation. They encourage us to look within to see in our hearts a seed, an embryo, a fetus, or maybe even a small baby – but, to recognize God within. As did Mary, the task of our spiritual life is to feed, clothe and nurture the child so that we may mature into the fullness of Christ. That is the miracle of transformation.
Fr. Joe Mitchell, CP is the director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky. See his website: http://www.earthandspiritcenter.org/