I’d like to reflect this evening on the first reading from today’s Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
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 and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed” (Rev 12:1-10).
I. Drama – In this great passage, there is a kind of a pulling back of the veil, a disclosure of what is really going on: There is a great and cosmic battle that reaches upward and outward, across generations, across nations and empires, and down into the close quarters of every human heart. It is the great battle between darkness and light, between the great Red Dragon and the Lord of Glory.
During this battle, there is a great sign in the heavens. There stands a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars about her head. She brings forth a son, destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron, to crush the dragon with the heel of his foot.
Many seek to localize the descriptions from the book of Revelation into either the first century or the end of time, but in fact they are fulfilled both then and now. For this great struggle was then, is now, and will continue until Christ comes again in glory to definitively apply the victory He has already won.
This great cosmic drama explains most of the struggles we see around us and within us. It explains the insanity of war, retribution, violence, promiscuity, abortion, and every evil afflicting us today. It explains our greed, our unreasonable fears and suspicions, our cynicism, and the fact that so often we are just plain mean to one another.
But this drama in the Book of Revelation also shows the woman clothed with the sun, Mary, and her son Jesus. And so it also explains our love, our thirst for justice, our appreciation for truth and beauty, and our capacity for caring, forgiveness, and living chastely and uprightly.
A wonderful documentary released in 2012, The Blood and the Rose, depicts this great drama. The title describes beautifully how in the midst of a bloody and violent world, the Lord often extends a rose, His mother.
There she is at the foot of the cross, with all its blood. There she is at the turning back of Muslim invaders at Lepanto. There she is at Guadalupe in the face of bloodthirsty Aztec gods. There she is at Fatima between two horrible wars.
But in the midst of all the blood and drama, the Lord extends a rose, His mother. Her message is never complex, it is simply the Gospel: repent and believe the good news. Yes, do whatever my Son tells you. Repent; forsake your evil ways. Come to a new mind and begin to live in the kingdom that is now available to you. As a good mother, she warns us and tells us to pray, pray, pray. During the blood of conflict and the dramatic battle between light and darkness, a rose: mother Mary.
II. Dramatis personae – The second thing that occurs to me is the cast of characters and the simplicity of the setting of the great drama. To whom does God extend the rose of His love at the beginning; to whom does Mary trust her message?
The pattern began with the incarnation itself. God sent Gabriel not to a powerful queen of this world, not to a woman of great access, power, or money. Rather He sent him to a humble maiden in a town so small that there was no road that even went to it. Nazareth, a town of 300, accessible only via footpath—that is where Gabriel was sent, and to a woman few had ever heard of—Mary of Nazareth. Some have described this is as a daring raid, conducted secretly behind enemy lines.
Down through the centuries, the pattern continued. Mary herself most often goes to the most hidden and humble of people: Juan Diego, a simple working man; Bernadette Soubirous, a peasant girl; and the three children young children of Fatima. None of these was a scholar, theologian, bishop, powerful businessman, king, queen, or prince. God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Cor 1:27-29).
We tend to think that solutions come through the great and powerful, through the “big cheeses” of the time. But the pride of this world will be conquered with humility; Heaven reaches out to the merest children. In the midst of the blood and horrible roar of war, the rose is extended quietly; its message goes forth to the humble.
III. Direction – A final matter to consider on this Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe is the direction to which it points. And frankly, it points to the south. The center of the Church has shifted south and her complexion has become browner.
As the lights are going out in the West and much of the developed world, many other lights are coming on: in Africa, Brazil, Korea, and elsewhere. In Africa the number of Catholics has increased dramatically over the past fifty years.
Guadalupe somewhat signaled this all the way back in the 16th century. At the very time when Martin Luther was leading a revolt against the Church, at the very time when some two million Germans walked out of the church, nine million Mexicans walked in. In the midst of the bloody Aztec meltdown, in the midst of the blood feuds in Europe, Our Lady extended a rose in Mexico. The faith lit up in Mexico, Central America, and South America, even as it began its death throes in Europe.
In 1917 in Fatima, The Lord extended a rose through Our Lady. She warned three young children of a coming war that would be far worse than any that had ever been known before. She warned that if people did not repent and pray, Russia would spread her errors far and wide. But unlike 16th century Mexico, Europe did not heed her offer and disaster ensued, disaster that continues to unfold today.
Surely Africa, Central America, and South America are not without their problems. Protestant errors have infected too many. In Africa especially, many Catholics are being martyred at the hands of Muslims. There are still problems with government corruption and the lack of resources, but the blood of martyrs is the seed for the Church; it has always been so and will continue to be so until Christ comes again.
But in the midst of all the blood, in the midst of all the difficulties, God extends a rose to the poor and humble, the rose of His Mother Mary.
Happy Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. For those of you who at times feel discouraged, remember the beautiful image of the blood in the rose. Stay calm and Viva Christo Rey!
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed.”
Here is an old song based on an even older text that points to Mary at Guadalupe, whom many Mexicans call “La Morena,” the dark-skinned lady. The text (translated to English) says,
I am the little dark girl, I’m the dark girl.
It is said that darkness,
is caused by sin,
but sin was never found in me nor it will ever be.
I am the little dark girl, I’m the dark girl.
I am the thornless rose,
about whom Salomon rhapsodized:
I am black, and beautiful and for me they will sing.
I am the little dark girl, I’m the dark girl.
I am the flaming bush,
that burns but is not consumed,
nor am I touched by that fire that will touch the others.
2 Replies to “In the Midst of Much Blood, God Extended a Rose – A Meditation on Guadalupe and Mother Mary”
Let us not forget Our Lady of Good Hope in Champion, Wisconsin, the only approved apparition in the United States:
Thank you for the article. A happy and blessed NewYear Msgr.
The Song of Songs in 1:5 speaks of the bride being dark/black and/but beautiful.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Rupert of Deutz (c1075-c1129) being the first recorded writer to state that Mary as being the bride in the Song of Songs.
“…In the interpretation of the Bible, Rupert did not limit himself to repeating the teaching of the Fathers, but shows an originality of his own. For example, he is the first writer to have identified the bride in the Song of Songs with Mary Most Holy. His commentary on this book of Scripture has thus turned out to be a sort of Mariological summa, in which he presents Mary’s privileges and excellent virtues. In one of the most inspired passages of his commentary Rupert writes: “O most beloved among the beloved, Virgin of virgins, what does your beloved Son so praise in you that the whole choir of angels exalts? What they praise is your simplicity, purity, innocence, doctrine, modesty, humility, integrity of mind and body, that is, your incorrupt virginity” (In Canticum Canticorum 4, 1-6, CCL 26, pp. 69-70). The Marian interpretation of Rupert’s Canticum is a felicitous example of harmony between liturgy and theology. In fact, various passages of this Book of the Bible were already used in liturgical celebrations on Marian feasts.
Rupert, furthermore, was careful to insert his Mariological doctrine into that ecclesiological doctrine. That is to say, he saw in Mary Most Holy the holiest part of the whole Church. For this reason my venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, in his Discourse for the closure of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, in solemnly pronouncing Mary Mother of the Church, even cited a proposal taken from Rupert’s works, which describes Mary as portio maxima, portio optima the most sublime part, the very best part of the Church (cf. In Apocalypsem 1, 7, PL 169, 1043)….”
Catholic tradition venerates Our Blessed Lady as a black madonna. The wiki identifies
“450–500 Black Madonnas in Europe, depending on how they are classified”
Regarding Our Lady of Guadalupe a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary Lady, a black Madonna, holding the Divine Child Jesus was given by Pope St Gregory the Great (c540-604AD) to Bishop Leander of Seville. It was hidden during the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula and was uncovered in 1326, subsequent to a vision of Our Lady to a shepherd.
After the overthrow of the Moors the statue was enshrined in a nearby Franciscan Monastery next to the River Guadalupe which is a hybrid Arabic/ Latin name from guada – valley or river and lupe wolf. Since the C14th the image has been known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
Christopher Columbus named an island in the Caribbean Santa María de Guadalupe in 1493.
Almost forty years later Our Lady appeared to an Aztec Indian convert, Juan Diego, in 1531. When asked her name at the request of the local bishop, Our Lady’s response, in the Aztec language, included the words “te coatlaxopeuh” (pronounced: “te quatlasupe”) and meant “one who crushes the head of the stone serpent.” To the Bishop’s Spanish ears, the name of “Te Quatlasupe” sounded like “Guadalupe.” Hence, the bishop named the Mexican Madonna “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
Pope Benedict XVI makes reference to the location of Tepeyac hill the appearance of Our Lady to St Juan Diego and spoke of “the Black Madonna of Tepeyac”
“…The venerated image of the Black Madonna of Tepeyac, with her sweet and peaceful countenance, imprinted on the tilma of the indio St Juan Diego, shows her as “the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God from whom she lives” (From the Office of Readings. Nicán Mopohua, 12th ed., Mexico City, D.F., 1971, 3-19). She reminds us of the “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 12:1-2). She signals the presence of the Saviour to the indigenous and mestizo population. She always leads us to her divine Son, who is revealed as the foundation of the dignity of every human being, as a love that is stronger than the powers of evil and death, and the fountain of joy, filial trust, consolation and hope…”
Note might also be made of
‘Mary and the Prayer Patterns in the Song of Songs’ by Paul Flynn available from kindle $2.95.
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