Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A different type of Advent

Altarista in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe
If you walked into Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission, Maynardville, TN today you might be confused is this the Advent Season or some Marian feast day.   If you are a Baptist or Methodist or other Christian friend, it might even be more confusing.

For many Catholics the four weeks prior to Christmas are Advent with purple cloths and four advent candles burning.  This is the season for preparing for Christ's second coming.   Yet, for any Catholic priest or community associated with Mexicans or Mexican Americans it is the time of Guadalupe and Posadas. 

The Guadalupe Tradition is a very powerful religious experience for the Mexican people.   In some ways it overshadows in terms of popular devotion almost any other event, including Christmas and Easter.   Good Friday would most likely be just as important, but certainly not at joyous.

our young people as Our Lady and Juan Diego
This tradition begins in when a Aztec Indian named Juan Diego, a faithful Catholic, had an aspiration of Our Lady, Mary, the mother of Jesus on his way to church on December 9, 1531. Mary asked him to build a church in honor of her Son, Jesus.  On December 12 when his uncle was sick  and wished to see a priest.  He took a different route in hopes of not having an aspiration, but Our Lady appeared again.  She told him to pick the roses to take to the Bishop to proof she was who she said she was.   Roses do not grow in the rocky ground outside of Mexico city in December.  This, then was the first of several miracles associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe.   When he presented the roses to the Bishop the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on his tilma.  This tilma is on display at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico today.   The third miracle is that Juan's uncle was healed by the power of Christ through the intercession of Mary.   As a result of these miracles thousands became Christians in Mexico.

The miracle of the tilma
The other part of the story, however, has to do with the power of Christ to help people know the truth of his salvation.   Christianity came to Mexico under the power of the sword.  It came as a foreign religion preached by an invading force from Spain.   However, some local people discovered the truth of Jesus and the Christian faith.   Mary calls herself "quatlasupe" which in the Nahuatl language means "one who steps on serpents".  However, it sounded like "Guadalupe" a place in Spain, and thus the name.   She has a black belt that means she is pregnant with Jesus.   Her message is that her son, is the SON of God, the most powerful light of the world.   Aztecs' worshipped the sun, the stars and the moon.   Our Lady, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is wrapped in the stars, stands on the moon and in front of the sun.   Without any other words, this image tells the Aztec people that her Son, the Son of God is the only true God.   He is more powerful than any of these false icons and gods.  She confirms that believe in Jesus is not a foreign religion of oppression, but the true religion and that Jesus is the only way to Salvation..  Thus, this is a story of evangelization and as a result, Mexico became a Christian nation.
A traditional Dance

Today, in our missions we keep this tradition.   At John Paul II, they have been praying the rosary, singing songs and sharing fellowships for nine days prior to the feas,t which is tomorrow, Thursday, December 12.   We had a large celebration on Sunday which included Mass, dances, music and lots of food.  Thursday morning at 5:30 a.m. we will gather for the morning praises which we where we will sing and pray.   Then in the evening we will have the celebration at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Maynardville beginning at 6 p.m..

Waiting to begin prayer at a home gathering

To an outsider, the rosary, the image of Guadalupe, and the songs and food may seem strange and could be misunderstood.  Yet, this is all about Jesus and the conversation of Mexico to Christianity.  It is very inspiring in Grainger County to see 30 - 70 people gathering each night to pray and eat together.  Most of these are in people's homes.  In Union county we are only doing three nights of rosaries, but we have between 40 - 60 have been attending.   This is a huge commitment of time and sacrifice.   It is one of faith where we are giving praise to Mary for her role in bringing us our Savior Jesus Christ.  Really, it always about Jesus -- for Mary has no meaning or significance without Him. Jesus is our brother, and thus, Mary is our Mother.   Yet in Jesus, and only in Jesus, is our Light and Salvation!!!

Good Food and good friends
What an honor for me to be a part of this wonderful way of keeping Advent.
Come on the journey of faith with us!!

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