But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” – Luke 1:29-31
The story sits on the margin between history and legend, persistent in its ability to tell a story greater than itself. It is 1531, ten years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. The Spaniards ruled, and the Indians were exiles in their own land.
On December 9th, Juan Diego, an Indian man, was on his way to Mass at dawn. He was met by the hill of Tepeyac by the Virgin Mary, who appeared to him as brown like he, and spoke to him in his own tongue, not Spanish. She asked him to tell the Bishop to build a church in her honor on the place. Who was Juan Diego to make such a request of the Spanish Bishop? But she had chosen him, and he went three times at her bidding. On the final visit, he took with him the sign she had provided, roses of Castile. When he opened his tilma or serape, in which he had wrapped them, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was emblazoned on it. The miracle cut the Spanish bishop to the heart, and the next day the Indian man took the Spanish bishop to the place, where a church building was commissioned.
As Episcopalians, what do we do with a story like this? We can read it as an Advent story. During this time, we read a lot of prophecies of God’s advent in our world, which turns the social order right-side-up, changes the course of human history, and gives birth to a new thing: a remade humanity. Similarly, into the darkness of the world of the conquered, God sends a heavenly emissary, the Mother of God, to give a downtrodden man power enough to change the course of Latin-American history. The powerful listens to the powerless, and a new thing is born: a Christianity native to this land.
God of liberation, give us grace to do justice. Amen.
-Fr. Paul Moore