Today, people all over Latin America and especially throughout Mexico, celebrate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. It is the most prominent Catholic feast among Spanish speaking Catholics in the US and certainly in Boyle Heights, near East LA.
Three aspects of this feast really help me this Advent. First, it celebrates the feminine side of the divine. Scholars like Elizabeth Johnson observe keenly that Mary is the maternal face of God. Mary’s active and total “yes” provides a home for God to dwell in human flesh. She models the values of receptivity, openness, and hospitality which make space for Emmanuel, God-with-us. Second, the feast celebrates how God relates personally to us. Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, not as a European Madonna, but as an Aztec princess, wearing native dress, and speaking to him in Nahuatl, his own language. Through Mary, God relates to us through the customs and language that we can understand. Third, the feast celebrates God’s preferential love for the poor and powerless. In their context of mistreatment and oppression by Spanish colonizers, Our Lady’s tender assurance to Juan and his people opens them up to greater hope in God: “Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?” Not surprisingly, more than 9 million local people became Catholics shortly after Our Lady’s apparition, whereas before conversions to the faith had been sporadic.
Through Our Lady of Guadalupe, God is revealed as one who is maternal, who speaks our language, and who stands with and for the poor. This God encounters us where we are and as we are. As the loss of my young cousin sets in my heart and violence rises in the neighborhoods around Boyle Heights, the feast of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is touches me in a profound way. Join me in this petition found in the opening prayer at Mass today:
“… grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe,
may seek with ever more lively faith
the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace.”